Amherst Magazine

Student View: Grading Herself

By Brianda Reyes '14

Brianda Reyes '14

Brianda Reyes '14

Major: Political Science
Editor-in-chief: The Amherst Student

I remember when I heard that some students took five classes each semester. I felt like the world’s biggest underachiever, or at least Amherst’s biggest underachiever. For most of my sophomore year, I wondered why I could barely handle four classes when others thrived in five.

Then, one night during my junior year, as I sat in the office of The Amherst Student at 5 a.m. editing InDesign pages, I realized I did have a fifth class. Being the editor-in-chief of The Student was my extra class. I was my own professor, and the readings included 12 weekly pages, each of which I proofed at least three times. I gave a presentation of my work every Wednesday afternoon to the entire college.

During the past three years, I spent countless hours in The Student’s Keefe Campus Center office reading, writing, designing and editing, and even more time outside interviewing, emailing and, most of all, worrying. I never slept much on Tuesday nights, not only because I stayed up late sending off the newspaper but also because, afterward, I tossed and turned in bed, wondering if we’d spelled someone’s name incorrectly or credited a quote to the wrong person.

It was a difficult, unpaid and mostly thankless job. But whenever I wondered why I was doing it, I remembered the first meeting I attended at the paper, when I asked one of the editors if we should follow Associated Press style. He’d never heard of AP style, even though it’s the standard for newspapers around the country. I made a goal for myself then and there: to improve the quality of The Student.  

It was not an easy task. When I became editor-in-chief in 2012, I recruited a talented sophomore to revamp and modernize the paper’s appearance. I pushed the editors and writers to pursue in-depth stories that the student body would care about. Our readership saw a small boost.

Then, the 2012–13 academic year happened. First we covered a professor’s resignation after claims
of plagiarism. Then we published a powerful account of sexual assault. That story went viral, and we reported on the campus-wide call for culture and policy change that followed, as well as a debate about whether there’s a connection between athletics and sexual assault.

Despite the tragic or unfortunate nature of some of those stories, we were proud to publish them. We showed that The Amherst Student could cover more than just lectures. We played an important role in exposing some of the college’s flaws and faults. We changed the way our readers perceived us. That is all I ever wanted.

The Amherst Student newspaper

The newspaper still has a long way to go. We are struggling to sustain ourselves financially, we’re short-staffed, and not every writer is committed to producing quality work. People still call it The Amherst Stupid, but at least they read it.

Next year, I will no longer be enrolled in this fifth class. It’s time for someone else to take it.

As both the professor and the student, I now have to grade myself. I think I at least passed. But I will leave the letter grade up to our readers.

Go easy on me. Remember, I took four other classes.