You might have noticed that the article directly to the right of this one is written in French. No, this isn’t a catastrophic mistake wrought by our layout software or a copy-and-paste mix-up with one of our editors’ language requirement homework. It’s a little something new we’re trying out here at The Weekly, something that, to our knowledge, has never consistently been done before in the paper’s 136-year history.
Muhlenberg College is a complicated place. It doesn’t sound right to say it’s “immensely diverse” – according to the college’s Instagram page, the Class of 2023 is 80.9% white, for example – and yet the diversity that the college does contain is real, palpable, vibrant, active and beautiful. Thriving, student-led organizations such as Comunidad Latinx, the Unchained Theatre Collective, Muhlenberg Trans Advocacy Coalition (MTAC), the Muhlenberg Disability Advocacy Group (MDAG) and so many more provide support networks for marginalized folks who might not feel so safe anywhere else on campus. Students like Em Panetta ’20, whose opinion piece about gender neutral bathrooms has already motivated the college to change their virtual map of the campus, speak their minds about issues that matter to them and enact change in real time. Students, faculty and staff work to forge lasting community connections each and every day.
If there’s one thing that can be said about Muhlenberg, it’s that we’re striving to be better, to do better, even if what ends up getting done isn’t always enough. And all of that labor, all of that showing up, cannot fall on the shoulders of marginalized students alone. We at The Weekly think it’s time to make sure that the space we have better reflects the diversity that exists on this campus.
That’s why, for the rest of this academic year, it is our goal to publish one article per week in a language other than English.
Every choice that we make, especially in terms of the words that we use, is a political one. It is political to pick one word over another, even if they might initially seem to be synonyms. It is, too, a political choice to publish only in English, though this choice is buried in the ideologies we are constantly surrounded by and are rarely aware of. We print mostly in English because it’s easy; because it’s supposed to be a lingua franca, a common denominator; because it’s the only language, admittedly, that any of our editors speak fluently.
What we don’t usually see are the implications of those statements. Why is English meant to be a common denominator between other languages? (Of course, this is rooted in colonialism and imperialism and manifest destiny and other English words that describe the ravaging of many hundreds of thousands of cultures by white Europeans.) What is stolen when one set of words is forced out of someone’s mouth or slapped out of their hands in exchange for another set, when shame is pushed upon some for their accents and praise piled upon others? Most importantly, perhaps, how can those who were stolen from reclaim what was lost?
It is here, dear reader, that we turn to you. Do you journal in Japanese? Craft poetry in Polish? Do you free-write in French, pen song lyrics in Spanish, assert your opinions in Arabic? If you feel most comfortable writing in another language, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org along with your topics of interest and the language in which you want to write. If you have your own story idea, that’s great – send that along, too! Otherwise, we’ll match you with one of our section editors, who will assign you a story within their section for that week. Your article, whether it’s an opinion piece about the current state of politics or a review of a mainstage theatrical production or a recap of the football team’s latest game, will be printed alongside all the rest. An English translation will be made available online, just as it is with this week’s article by Sarah Coffel ’21, should readers choose to engage with it. The focus, though, will be on the words you chose and the language you chose to express them in. Muhlenberg is a complicated, beautiful, problematic and miraculous place. Let’s celebrate who we are – who all of us are – by giving every single one of us the room to do more than exist. Let’s give everyone on this campus enough room to flourish.