Nava: A columnist’s retrospect: receiving criticism, promoting discussion

Along with a loving family and loyal friends, my reason for giving thanks this turkey-feasting season touched on one unusual wellspring: this column.

Yes, I’m very thankful to be a columnist for the Tribune and to know my readership possibly outnumbers those who read the Milwaukee phone book. For the rest, I hope you at least recycled or found another use for my column.

My favorite reader response came from an unsatisfied student who told me she enjoyed using my column’s paper to clean the inside of her microwave. Pained at first, I soon realized there were far more demeaning surfaces to clean.

But if there are any objectors to my style or content, I can only reply that you get exactly what you paid for — nothing less and nothing more.

However, as we are partly a tuition-funded enterprise at the Tribune, I’ve always felt a duty to write something of a caliber that truly reflects the $30,000 or more each student pays through hard-earned savings, loans and scholarships.

Since I began writing as a columnist for the Tribune, I’ve broken a few rules that govern how a newcomer should conduct himself in the presence of his hosts, or in this case, my dear readers.

Sex, religion and politics are generally taboo, but I have made them mainstays in arguments I hope have challenged commonly held viewpoints at Marquette.  And with the possibility of a professor-turned-pederast — allegedly — I hope someone in the administration will regard my earlier urgings for a campus-wide porn filter as prophetic.

I wanted to be the paper’s resident heckler, taking on everything from entitlement to daytime pajamas. Where there is entrenchment on our campus, I come with a bulldozer.

I hope I have been something of a nuisance to ingrained notions on our campus. I’ve tried to be fair by never making an argument of my own without addressing the best arguments of my presumed opponent.

Occasionally, this has required courage to expose myself to a wave of feedback that often attacks more personally than argumentatively. But, such is life when writing in an age of anonymous e-mails and online comment boxes. Opinion writing rarely pleases everyone — a fact I fortunately learned on day one.

Notwithstanding this job’s occupational hazards, the perks are fantastic. I am never more pleased than when another student enters the ring to challenge the content of my weekly columns.

My favorite response came from a young woman who assailed my opinions on sexual health education at Marquette in an eloquent, line-by-line fashion. It’s worth it to read her published submission if you haven’t already. Her response showed a mature regard for my own arguments, which is the highest compliment I have ever received since writing for the Tribune.

Another perk is what happens outside the paper. When you read this section of the Tribune, you hopefully are provoked to question, and reorganize your thoughts about certain realities of college and adult life. I brazenly speak on behalf of my fellow columnists by saying our collective objective is that our columns become a part of your conversations in the cafeteria, during study breaks, in the classroom and elsewhere on campus.

I close with a humble request to my readers and microwave cleaners alike: Speak up! If you feel there is any issue of significance to you or the university, then sit down and put your thoughts into words for others to read and consider. This is your viewpoints section, a type of free speech zone, where ideas are the currency.

Please join us.