Apr 172014
 
 April 17, 2014

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Lauren Carroll, Trinity ’14,  is a senior political science major from Phoenix, Arizona. At Duke, she has spent most of her time in The Chronicle offices, but she is also involved with Team Kenan and the Baldwin Scholars. After graduation, she is heading to Washington, D.C. to be a journalist. 

Most of my college education happened outside the classroom. I learned a lot about reading, writing, thinking critically, current events, and I had plenty of all-nighters—but all of that took place in the student newspaper office instead of the library. I owe my decision to become a journalist, my past internships, and my future job to The Chronicle, so at the end of my four years at Duke, I know I spent my time well. But along the way, I sometimes questioned my involvement because I didn’t feel like a real Duke student.

I had split (and opposing) loyalties. Part of the time, I was a tuition-paying, royal blue-bleeding Blue Devil who wanted nothing more than to see Duke ascend both the March Madness bracket and the U.S. News and World Report rankings. But for the 60 or so hours I spent each week in The Chronicle, I was pitching, writing, and editing stories that had the potential to make Duke look bad. I worked hard to churn out juicy stories about administrators and student leaders. I could go to bed proud of my journalistic work, just to have my confidence crushed in the morning by emails and Facebook posts from my peers and administrators who wished I had never published a story, even if it was true.

My friends and other people I interact with regularly at Duke have learned to say “off the record” before telling me something interesting. But should they have to? Is it fair that they have to constantly assume I’m in reporter mode? Is this what being a real journalist is going to be like? Being a journalist is part of my identity—not meaning that I am always on the job, but meaning that I am naturally curious, and I happen to have a job that allows me to dig up and shed light on important stories. I’ll always be looking in plain sight for stories, even if that means taking a tip from a friend.

The difference between covering Duke and the real world, though, is distance. In my upcoming job, I’ll be covering the 2014 midterms, and I don’t have any friends running for Congress this year. So if I get a source tip, it won’t be from someone I know on any level other than professional.

Whereas at Duke, where the community is so small, many of my sources are no doubt going to be people I know outside The Chronicle. I have to write stories, sometimes harsh ones, about the student body president—with whom I share the same hometown, many of the same classes, and the same graduation year, and if we had just gone to different O-week info sessions, our roles could be reversed. That is normal at Duke, but it will be a rarity in the real world. But that doesn’t make it any easier when people you like, respect, and know personally are offended by your legitimate work.

So I’m no Duke poster child. I dig up dirt on Duke and put it out for the world to see. I’ll put off studying to spend a couple more hours in The Chronicle office. I’m part of a club that’s financially independent from Duke. I don’t have Latin honors. I only have one major and zero minors or certificates. I didn’t go abroad or do DukeEngage. I’ve never done research or gotten to know my academic adviser. I’m going into a dying field, where income is abysmal. The list separating me from my peers goes on and on. But I’ll still get to put that flashy little line: “Education: Duke University” on my resume. Did I take my education for granted? Did I just bite the hand that feeds me?

Looking back, I should be one of the kids that they put on a brochure because I am graduating having learned all the lessons they wanted me to, even though I didn’t learn them in a traditional way. In joining The Chronicle, I tried something new, and I found my passion. I worked hard and immersed myself in something I cared about. I was a leader, and I learned from moments of both success and failure. And even if it seems like I was always out to get Duke, my Chronicle work was a manifestation of my love for this university. By exposing problems, we can make Duke better. And if Duke supports good journalism, that means it also supports free thought and free speech. It welcomes criticism, which is a luxury student journalists at many other colleges don’t have. Even though I occasionally felt like Jekyll and Hyde—student by day, sneak by night—I am leaving this place 100 percent Duke.

 

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Daniel Pigeon is a native North Carolinian studying philosophy and economics at UNC Chapel Hill, graduating in 2015.  He is an Undergraduate Fellow at the Parr Center for Ethics.

Throughout the entirety of my teenage years, I held very strong beliefs about morality and the world in general—probably much too strong. Perhaps not uncommon to young men in late adolescence, I was firmly under the impression that I had all of the answers to every philosophical quandary and moral dilemma known to mankind. Introspection and soul-searching were completely unnecessary. If only people had consulted me, we surely would have achieved world peace, eliminated poverty, and abruptly ended all forms of unethical behavior. If only!

I would not say that my beliefs have changed much during my time in college: I essentially hold all the same beliefs I did five years ago. Rather than adjust my specific ethical positions, college has exposed me to a variety of opposing viewpoints that I had previously never encountered. I grew up in an environment where virtually everyone had the same views on religion, politics, and morality. Criticizing people who have different values is easy when you only read about those people or hear about them on the news. It is much more difficult to dismiss someone’s beliefs when they are sitting in a classroom with you; when they are readily defending their views against yours; when it is clear that they hold their beliefs just as passionately as you do.

I have learned a great deal from having my beliefs directly challenged by classmates, but I’ve learned much more from discovering that not everyone always sees things the way that I do. I was also forced to the harsh realization that other people are not inherently misguided or mistaken simply because our views are not identical. My self-righteousness disintegrated as I began to grasp the complex nature of morality. I (finally) began to question my own beliefs. Studying philosophy has caused me much confusion, grief, angst, and doubt. And for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.

There was a time (not too long ago) when I would not listen to opposing viewpoints: in my mind, there was no reason to. I was right, and I knew I was right.

It was foolish for me to have ever imagined that I had a more robust understanding of the world than any other individual. College has taught me to hold equal respect for everyone’s opinion, from a distinguished professor to someone who never completed high school, whether or not they coincide with my own. Part of the beauty of life is diversity—diversity of ethnicity, culture, religion, and belief. The world would not be nearly as fun or interesting to exist in if everyone was exactly like me. In fact, the thought of everyone being exactly like me is horrifying. I have come to appreciate the fact that not everyone sees the world the way I do.

My time as a university student has shown me that we, as human beings, all aim to accomplish very similar goals in life. One of them, regardless of our specific beliefs, is to gain knowledge: to seek the right, the good, the true. Sometimes the paths we take on this quest diverge. Being a student of philosophy has taught me it is imperative that we remember our common goal nonetheless. Progress towards knowledge of morality is not possible if obstinacy prevents open dialogue; our understanding of the world is advanced through respectful and open discussion. This is only possible if we do not hold our own beliefs in higher regard than anyone else’s. It is hard to see how being dogmatic or demonizing those with opposing viewpoints would ever aid the human race. This is what I’ve learned from my liberal arts education—and I am certain that it has infinite applications to the “real world”. These same principles apply to resolving conflicts of all natures and scales, whether it be negotiating a peace treaty between two hostile religious factions or settling a dispute with a friend about which Ben and Jerry’s flavor is the tastiest.

After some reflection, perhaps college has transformed my views after all. Whereas I used to value righteousness and conviction above all else, I now hold these qualities in much lower esteem. Principles like open-mindedness and tolerance have taken their place. Attending university has provided me with knowledge, but more importantly, it has instilled in me the characteristics necessary to continue the acquisition of knowledge.

Established in honor of the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ 15th anniversary at Duke and subsequently expanded, the award represents a partnership with the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.