Avi Mediratta is a Senior and VPR's Editor-in-Chief. He is from Orlando, FL and is majoring in Economics and Human and Organizational Development. His political interests include education policy, labor and employment, and international relations. He also enjoys chocolate milk.
I can vaguely recall walking confusedly down Alumni Lawn, enveloped in joyful screaming from my new upperclassmen peers and flanked by posters listing campus organization after campus organization. This was my new home, and for the first few weeks, I allowed my excitement about a new life at Vanderbilt to supercede my fear of not fitting in. It seemed like everyone here was some sort of math genius, baseball star, homecoming king, or famous violinist, and I remember not knowing exactly how to feel in this sea of high academic and personal achievement. I think that Founder’s Walk was just the perfect physical representation of this feeling: freshmen trudging along a pre-set path as upperclassmen wearing matching t-shirts unabashedly displayed their organizations as if to say Come here! Join us! We will help you belong!
I realize that’s kind of a grim way to look at Founder’s Walk; I promise I don’t actually have anything against it. I guess I use that example to say that we were all new here at some point or another. Despite what anyone tells you, we’ve all felt lost before, and I feel like often times we join on-campus organizations to help ourselves feel less lost. Our extracurriculars give us a sense of purpose. They help us feel like we belong, which is why at the beginning of your Vanderbilt career you might feel a little lost, and so you will rush to indiscriminately join a bunch of clubs right away. I’ve been there; honestly I originally joined the Vanderbilt Political Review (VPR) because some guy told me about it at the org fair and I felt bad just walking away so I wrote down my email.
I’ve always been interested in politics, so I figured I could write some papers for VPR and it would look good on my resume. The experience I had here was very different from that expectation. First of all, VPR does not publish academic papers; our content is journalistic in nature and sometimes even heavily opinionated. As the premier nonpartisan political journal on campus, we often represent numerous voices of Vanderbilt speaking on multiple issues, ranging from Chinese foreign policy to the size of Rand’s to-go cups. We aren’t here to continue our time out of class by writing more academic papers; our articles are filled with passion, humor, and social commentary. Our contributors are not afraid to speak on controversial issues; if you don’t believe me you can check out our articles on Vanderbilt’s drug trade, EAD office, Greek system, legacy of slavery, and overall culture. When I joined VPR, we wrote almost exclusively on national and international issues, but around two years ago we began paying more attention to on-campus political issues, the result of which was a series of highly profound articles and a new student interest in the political melting pot that is this university.
Some people tend to see politics as a battle between left and right, and perhaps if you were to use that standard you could say that Vanderbilt tends to lean left, but still has a fairly vocal right-leaning minority. To be honest, though, I don’t see politics that way. The richness of commentary offered by VPR stems from the fact that politics is more than just left and right. Politics is about people coming together and attempting to build a better community. It isn’t just about Republicans and Democrats; it could be as simple and small scale as a tenant writing to her building manager that someone needs to pay for the lights to be fixed. Politics is about people in a community who have ideas and wish to implement those ideas.
Vanderbilt is our community, and let me tell you, the Vanderbilt community has ideas. Lots of them. Sometimes they are academic: We need to find a way to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. Sometimes they aren’t: We need to find a way to make the bowls line shorter. To the incoming freshman class, you are here because you have ideas, too. If you ever feel like you’re having trouble fitting in, remember that fact. Some of you have ideas that you want to see published, and if you are one of these people, VPR would be delighted to receive your application to be a contributor and let your voice be heard in the Vanderbilt community. Being part of VPR for the past three years has been one of the great joys of my college career, and I cannot wait to serve as Editor-in-Chief for my last year at Vanderbilt. If you would like to contribute to the open discussion of ideas in the Vanderbilt community, send us an application; no prior writing, political, or journalistic experience is required.
As I walked down Alumni Lawn to the chorus of student involvement on campus, I thought about who I wanted to be at Vanderbilt. Would I be a fraternity brother? An a capella singer? A writer? A club leader? What I really should have focused on being was myself. You don’t need organizations on campus to define you, and I wish someone told me that earlier. This letter is not just an empty recruitment ploy directed at those interested in applying to VPR; I see this as an opportunity to address what we stand for as an organization. We represent the voices and ideas of the Vanderbilt community. This is not a perfect community, but it is special because it is ours. To the Class of 2022, welcome to our community, and to everyone else, welcome back. We at VPR look forward to joining you all in our discussions about the issues at Vanderbilt and beyond, and for those of you who wish to be involved on campus, we would be flattered and humbled if you got involved with us.