Celebrating SIPA

By Amir Khouzam

Welcome back! Here we are, Spring Break behind us, excited to be once again in this building with deadlines knocking on our door and assignments due in the morning. We are excited; I’m assuming. Adios beaches, adieu Riviera, and in my case, goodbye Canadian cold.

You might think I’m being bitter, seeing as for me this past week was less sunny vacation, more arctic sojourn. Those of you who headed south probably weren’t so thrilled to be walking up Broadway again this week. That’s okay. I get it, but humour me for a minute.

To my first year peers, take a look at the calendar and realize something: we have but a little over a year left here. Second years, just over a month. J-termers, E-MPAs—listen, I don’t really get your schedule but you have either a little more or a little less time left than we do. This thing is flying by. Let's savour it.

Despite the stress and the frustrations and the deadlines and the overcrowded poster boards, you better believe we’re never going to be in a place like this again. The breadth of knowledge, experience, and aspirations that we are surrounded by day to day is unique and special, and the power that our students are harnessing to address the real systemic imperfections of our environment is impressive.

On the issue of diversity, a powerful coalition of extraordinary people, who also happen to be our friends and classmates, are challenging the status quo and giving voice to uncomfortable truths about higher education and policy work more broadly. Andrew Chang and Kier Joy, along with others on the SSOC Board, are bringing their considerable organizing experience to bear on existing institutional structures like the Diversity Committee while creating new channels through which to further conversations about the intersection of race, socio-economic status, and policy. And Anca Agachi and Andrés Chong-Qui Torres are giving their time to lead a group of students in a push for increased need-based financial aid, for us and for future generations at this school. Already they have made significant progress in cooperation with the administration.

There’s more. Teresa Perosa and the Gender Policy Working Group have been loud and vocal advocates for more conversations around gender and how policymaking needs to incorporate nuanced understanding of the issue in order to be effective. Student leaders like Larissa Connett, Elvina Fan, Dani Heard, Paulina Plata, and Julia Chung responded to our calls for cleaner communication around the constant stream of events on campus. I love the One Email. I don’t know when Leanne Kaplan finds time for school. Every time I see her she’s running around dealing with the logistics of one event or other.

Which leads me to, JoAnna Kyle, Mike Drake, and all of the other SIPASA-ers who have been extraordinary advocates on our behalf. In the midst of the confusion that has surrounded the change to the assistantship policy, JoAnna has remained a constant and reassuring source of information, an accessible president, and a compassionate fellow student. All of this is but a tiny cross-section of what’s happening here.*

There is a tendency, sometimes, for us to focus on issues of concern. It makes sense. Perhaps it is a characteristic of people interested in making a difference, that we search out problems in order to solve them, but it is important to create moments of celebration for solutions and their seekers, too. To do so does not minimize the challenges we face; it helps us imagine that they can be overcome.

That’s why we should be excited to be here. We’re surrounded by talent and activism, focused on our own d*mn issues for perhaps the last time in our lives. All of these people, and all of our peers, have been successful in their fields before and will be again. For now, we get to try and be successful for ourselves. It’s an exciting and unique time.

So while we’re here, let’s get hyped. We should see each other for the talent we are, and remember that we are this school, not the tests or the faculty, not the administration. We are this school. Let’s own that. Welcome back.

*Who else should we celebrate? Who’s killing it here, making SIPA better, giving of themselves and their time? Fill out this form and we’ll tell their stories too, anonymously or not!