September 26, 2020

Looking Back and Moving Forward

posted on: Thursday September 3, 2020

by Andrea Traietti ’21

Editor-in-Chief

 

The last time The Cowl was published was on March 5, 2020. When those of us on The Cowl staff left the office the night before, none of us thought that we had just wrapped up our last “Cowl Wednesday” and published our last issue of the 2019-2020 school year. 

That March 5 issue of The Cowl sat on stands across campus for almost six months before this issue finally came to replace it. Seeing it still on stands as we moved back to campus to begin the 2020-2021 school year was an eerie reminder of the abrupt end to last year, and of just how different our campus and the world are today than they were just six months ago. 

For those of us on The Cowl’s Editorial Board this year, seeing that issue also served as a reminder of our Cowl predecessors, whose time with The Cowl and at Providence College was cut short.

I would be remiss, therefore, to begin my first Editor’s Column without first reflecting on the legacy of last year’s Cowl seniors who did not get the ending they deserved. For so many of us on the Editorial Board, those seniors were not just coworkers, they were role models and friends. We have them to thank not just for the time and effort they put into producing The Cowl each week but also for the lessons in leadership they provided us with their example, and for their friendship and support along the way. 

In particular, I personally must thank Kerry Torpey ’20 and Katherine Torok ’20, two incredible and inspiring women who gave their all to The Cowl and to each of us who works for it every single week. Though their time at The Cowl concluded without the recognition they deserved, this entire summer Kerry and Katie have selflessly volunteered their time to continue working with The Cowl in order to support me and Hannah Langley ’21 as we step into the positions they held last year. We would not be here without them, and we certainly have big shoes to fill. 

To Kerry and Katie, and all of the 2020 Cowl grads, we say a sincere thank you. 

Now, the 2020-2021 Editorial Board is tasked with carrying on the legacy of our predecessors as we find ways to offer perspective and insight on these “unprecedented times,” as everybody likes to say, on our campus and in our country.

Indeed, these times are unprecedented: we are witnessing a deadly and uncontrolled pandemic alongside one of the largest civil rights movements in recent years, all while heading into one of the most consequential elections in American history. 

But the phrase “unprecedented times” has been thrown around so much and so easily that I wonder whether most of us have actually paused to consider the true gravity of that phrase, and what it means to be living through times that really are unprecedented. 

Right now, we are being called to embrace a great deal of uncertainty about a number of things. On top of this uncertainty, and exacerbating our feelings of anxiety stemming from it, is the fact that we are also all coping with loss, to varying degrees. Loss of a senior year, of memories and time with friends, loss of a job or of a home, and most devastating of all, loss of a loved one. It is unimaginably difficult to find perspective in times of grief, and to see a greater purpose in our losses. 

These past months, I have thought a lot about what it means to have perspective right now, and I have struggled with the realization that it can be very difficult to find. But I also believe that perspective can sometimes be found in the unlikeliest of places; in my case, sitting in my childhood bedroom in the middle of a deadly pandemic, scrolling through digitized issues of The Cowl in the library’s online archives.

There was nothing completely earth-shattering hiding in those archived pages, no epiphany just waiting to be uncovered all these years later. The real perspective came not from what I was reading, but simply from the process of looking back. Studying history can sometimes have a funny way of making you ask questions not only about the past but also about the future. This was the case as I scrolled through years of Providence College history preserved on pages of The Cowl that spanned from 1935 to 2020.

As I clicked through and downloaded issue after issue, I imagined future editors of The Cowl, 15 years from now when The Cowl turns 100, or even 65 years from now when it turns 150, sitting down to look through old issues of our paper just like I did. I wonder now, of course, what this next year holds for us and what those future editors might find in the pages we publish the next two semesters.

Inevitably, those looking back on this year’s issues of The Cowl are bound to uncover accounts of failure, disappointment, and disagreement across our campus. As a student newspaper, we have a responsibility to report the truth even when it is difficult to hear, and it is an unfortunate reality that this semester in particular is bound to present us with difficult and disappointing news. 

But I do not doubt that those looking back will find something else, too. I trust that just as I did as I looked through old issues, those future editors will find stories of resilience, of teamwork, of victories big and small, of long-awaited change, and of ways Friars supported one another.

The main takeaway, then, the great perspective I gained in old pages of The Cowl, was this: we still have stories to write and pages to fill. I hope that those pages will be full of proof that in the face of these “unprecedented times,” we showed up for each other and for our community in unprecedented ways, and discovered unprecedented courage and hope in the process.

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