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Kiran Hoeffner-Shah: Missed meetings and minor grievances

Courtesy of Kiran Hoeffner-Shah

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year. Journalists historically used “-30-” to signify the end of a story.

In my three years on staff, I probably set the record for the most missed staff meetings.

I never thought of missing the meeting as an absence, I just figured that everyone else was perpetually early – and I was fashionably late. There’s only so far that logic could take me, but someone really should have foreseen the problem when I was 30 minutes late to my staff interview.

Looking back – especially as I write this away from the townhouse – I wish I could have some of those mornings back.

Making the crawl across campus on Sunday morning, the fresh air dragging me out of my hangover, and hurriedly finishing edits in the townhouse basement contributed to some of my best memories of college. Stories about exorcised rabbits, all-staff alignment charts and arguments about the best bagel on campus would brighten my day. I didn’t mind that my chronic lateness contributed to the fun either. Whether it was the look of surprise when I walked in early, or the reminders about the time I missed a meeting because I woke up drunk and in Maryland.

I avoided the townhouse when I first joined staff. I didn’t really know anyone, and the opinions section barely used the townhouse. We would hold our meetings in campus buildings, I’d do most of my work from my residence hall, and I’d only be there for an hour every Sunday. But the longer I stayed on staff, the more community I found in its cramped basement.

I don’t remember who coined the term “minor grievances” to refer to rejected opinion pitches that just didn’t have enough in them, but I do remember ranting about them in that basement. It was one of the first real conversations I engaged in on a Sunday in the townhouse. Sadly, my wish to write them all out in a column never came true, but that won’t stop me from sharing some of them on my way out the door.

First, the paper straw experiment has gone on too long. Most people I know would say I care about the environment, but I cannot stand paper straws. Bring back the plastic straws, or at least the ones that seem like they’re made of plastic.

Among the more serious minor grievances is the state of New Jersey, which appears to have moved its entire population to Foggy Bottom. People from New Jersey do not need to identify the other people from New Jersey. New Jersey is not special – unless you find yourself enamored by large suburbs – and I do not care about Bruce Springsteen. But they are right about the pizza.

The District does not have good pizza, and campus does not have enough options. Wiseguys charging that much for a slice should be criminal and &Pizza is not pizza. Those are the only choices.

Finally, the greatest minor grievance of them all – Crossing 23rd Street is too difficult. I have spent hours of my life waiting to cross the street. Sometimes a motorcade or an ambulance will roll through right as the walk sign comes on. This is the worst thing that can happen to you on campus.

Then there’s the serious topics that I never had the chance to write. The argument for graduate students and residence advisers having the right to unionize. The fact that GW’s peer schools are not really the University’s equals. Abolishing the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – I swear I can back that one up – and eliminating the Regulatory Studies Center.

Of course, I did spend some time on The Hatchet actually writing about serious topics. I might be best remembered as the opinions writer who wanted to abolish everything – from the School of Business to Greek Life. But I’m also proud of the work that held GW’s administrators accountable. We challenged University President Thomas LeBlanc’s hires from the University of Miami, advocated for transparency from GW’s leaders and pushed for administrators to improve student life. That work wouldn’t be possible without the people who I’d see in the townhouse every Sunday – even if I was 30 minutes late.

Thank you for putting up with my minor grievances and missed meetings. These are the people who made me a better editor and created many of the best memories from my last four years:

Sarah: You went through hell and back, and then you decided to do it again. I will always be amazed and impressed by the work that you took on, and the passion you have for The Hatchet. I’m so happy that we got to work together through the last two years. You were a terrific leader and the only person I would want running The Hatchet during a pandemic. This year was tough, but you met the challenge. The Hatchet is a better newspaper than when I joined as a freshman and it is because of your leadership.

Parth: Perhaps better than anyone else on staff, you brought me back to Earth. I’ll miss using our ed board meetings to awkwardly relitigate the 2016 Democratic primary, but I hope you’ll still find the time to send me neoliberal tweets. Your dedication to the paper is unmatched, and you’re going to kill it as a lawyer. I still don’t fully understand why you’re a Nuggets fan, but I’ll be rooting for them in the playoffs.

Hannah: I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with. You are a tremendous writer, and I know you will do great things at The Post. You are also an awesome person who made our section the most fun on the paper. You made me look forward to budgeting meetings – even if we wasted half of the time. You were an amazing opinions editor, and I know that you will be an unstoppable force as managing director. When staff is finally back in the townhouse, make sure you keep the opinions corner safe.

Andrew: The first time I edited one of your columns, I had to Google three words. Your writing has poise and sophistication, and you bring it to your work as well. I always appreciated your contributions in our opinion section meetings, and what you brought to the ed board. It’s not easy to take notes for the meeting and still find ways to contribute meaningfully, but you did it every week. I admire your vocabulary, and your convictions, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for the section with you leading it.

Emily: Nobody on staff has better comedic timing than you. Ed board was more fun because you were on it, and I’m so glad that I got to work with you for the last few years. The Hatchet was lucky to have you, and not just because you were the only person on campus interested in sports. You handled the sports section like a professional, and did some of the best reporting on staff. I’ll always be impressed by your ability to create content even when COVID put sports on pause.

Renee: I’ll never agree with you on what constitutes a Midwestern state, but I know it does not include Nebraska. Thank you for listening to my many opinions on that topic and all the others. I appreciate that you always let me pitch eliminating SEAS, even if you and Liz would constantly shoot it down. I’ll always value our post-meeting discussions about Alexandra Petri columns and the Avengers. Thank you for being a mentor and helping me grow into the role of opinions editor. I couldn’t have made it as far as I did without your help, even if I never took your advice about learning how to wake up on time.

Irene: When I opened my first column, I was shocked by the number of comments. That was almost the end of my time on The Hatchet. But you helped to reassure me, and I’m so glad that I stuck around. The way that you led our weekly meetings and taught me to be a better writer helped me to be a better editor, and I’ll always appreciate the effort you made to make writing for the opinions section something fun.

Anna: I wish that we could have had an in-person ed board, but I loved working with you this year. You brought energy and fun to our meetings, even though we never had the chance to try out the intoxicated ed board idea. You’re an awesome culture editor – which not many people know is my favorite section to read on the paper – and you have done an amazing job this year.

Lizzie: You brought energy and excitement to the townhouse every day, and in this crazy year, it has been a life saver. Thank you for being the person who could make Zoom parties tolerable. I’ve always admired how welcoming and kind you are, and I have admired your passion for the paper. I hope I didn’t make too many style errors, but I always felt safe knowing that we had amazing copy editors.

Olivia Columbus: While it is unfortunate that you are a Michigan State fan, you are otherwise pretty cool. I’m still not sure how to cut a page, so I consider it a miracle that you are capable of laying out an entire paper. Thank you for making six hour endorsement meetings more fun and for doing your best to prevent me from needing to cut. Go Blue.

Leah: I wish I had the chance to use the guide you built for planning the Fall conference, but I’ll pass it along and hope that next year there’s a chance for everyone to be indoors together. You made life easier as managing director. Thank you for always answering my texts and offering to help – you’re pretty much the reason that The Hatchet is still registered as a student organization. You were always kind, welcoming and fun. Ed board meetings – and parties – were better with you there, and I’ll always appreciate that you helped to make my scavenger hunt idea come to fruition.

Olivia Dupree: You were the first person I spoke to on The Hatchet’s staff, at an overwhelming holiday party my freshman year. Thank you for being the person who came up to the freshman at the party and made sure he was fitting in, and thank you for bringing energy and spirit to the townhouse every Sunday.

Lia: You were a great teammate in the scavenger hunt, even if our rightful title was stolen by Parth. I know that you will be a great Editor-in-Chief, and I’m looking forward to reading The Hatchet next year, with you at its helm.

Liz: Thank you for having the trust to hire me even though I came to the interview late, and the patience to help me become the best editor I could. Working with you was a pleasure, even when you asked me to write at the last minute. I appreciate that you challenged me and prepared me to take over the opinions section. I’ve always liked eating at the restaurants in Dish of the Week, so I’m hoping that next time I’m in New York I can try something you’ve written about for Thrillist.

Vol. 116 ed board: You all brought your A-game to our meetings, and I’m so appreciative that you stuck with it after our rocky start. I’m so proud of the work that we did together and the discussions that produced it. I’ll miss our long tangents and random debates, but I’ll also miss the insight and ideas that you all brought to our meetings.

Vol. 115 ed board: More recent ed boards might not believe it, but when I first joined ed board I was pretty afraid to speak up. In a room of people with more time at GW than me, and more experience on The Hatchet, it was tough to feel like my contributions could be valuable. But you all never made me feel that way, and the discussions we had helped to shape years of ed board topics and meetings.

My family (Mom, Dad and Avani): I could always count on at least one of you to read my columns, so I always knew that I had an audience. Mom, thank you for providing me with the worst story imaginable for my Valentine’s day column. Having you all supporting me – even if it meant one too many dinner table conversations about GW administrators – has been the push I needed to keep going when things got tough.

My friends (Ari, Asma, Atticus, Anthony, Rudra, Emily, Slo, Eli, Billy and Mike): Sorry that those Sunday meetings always put a damper on brunch plans, but I’m blaming you all for those Saturday nights that made me show up late. Thank you all for taking the time to read some of my work, even if the only one any of you remember was about abolishing the business school.


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