COMMENTARY: What the Tribune taught me

Although four years and thousands of dollars was a steep price, I do give McGill credit for teaching me one extremely important lesson: the most relevant, edifying learning is accomplished outside the classroom.

At first I thought that university would be training. Training to become a political analyst or a Byron scholar or a future professor. Training to one day make a contribution of my own to the intellectual community.

I became none of those. Instead, I learned to be a musician, a drinking buddy, a haunter of used bookstores, a decent boyfriend, at times an indecent boyfriend, a roommate, a reluctant Facebook user, and a lover of the night. Above all, however, I became a writer.

Writing – journalism in particular – gets into your blood. Gradually, it becomes a defining, intrinsic characteristic of your being, as involuntary as hemoglobin carrying oxygen to your tissues. From my four-year tenure as contributor, editor, and columnist, one Tribune experience stands out as a firm testament to the unyielding passion of student journalists.

I arrived at Dawson College on September 13, 2006, a few minutes after Kimveer Gill opened fire in a cafeteria full of students. The building was still being emptied and dozens of students were running franticly into the streets, many of them still shaken from having seen friends and classmates dropping terrified or bloodied to the cafeteria floor. When Mayor Gerald Tremblay arrived to make a statement, a group of students who had recently been evacuated set down their water bottles and, with swiftness and incomprehensible zeal, pulled out pen and pad to pull quotations from his speech. They all wrote for The Plant, Dawson’s student-run newspaper.

The McGill Tribune’s livelihood and existence is (once again) threatened. You, the students, will cast the deciding vote as to whether this publication will live on with your funding and support, or be reduced to memories and some back issues stockpiled in my room.

As a journalist, it would be unethical for me to describe my bias in this affair as less than absolute. The Tribune was a professor of mine. Under its tutelage, I learned to work, argue, and come to compromise with people whose opinions were radically different from mine. I learned to take it in stride when letter-writers, SSMU councillors, and other assorted reactionaries decried me as a racist and a misogynist. I learned that something as common as ink and paper can make you feel invincible. I learned that truth is integrity, and integrity is truth.

These are lessons that other 19-year-olds want and need to learn. They can be learned by participating in, or sometimes merely by turning to, the opinion section. And, most importantly, these are lessons that belong to all of you.

I am immutably, inexorably blissful that I became a mediocre student and a damn good writer. If I had to do it again, I would do it the same.

You can vote online at ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca until March 11. Ben Lemieux is a McGill alumnus, a former Tribune arts and entertainment editor, and a former Tribune columnist.

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