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Two years of predictions, venting and anonymous feedback

When I got this job about two years ago, I thought I’d never run out of things to say. Everyone always told me I have an opinion on everything, so I always figured finding topics for column fodder wouldn’t be too difficult. But when you try not to beat the same dead horse every week, or put the exact same feelings and spin on an issue that everyone else has, this job can get much tougher. I still have a passion for many of the same issues I did when I took this job (campaign finance reform, school vouchers, campus apathy), and I’d still love the opportunity to comment on the issues of the day. But it’s time to give someone else a chance to bring the same fire and passion I tried to put here.

I’ve been very lucky to have this space to vent (I always say this is the greatest catharsis I could hope for) about 60+ times now. So I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned on my way out the door.

Whenever I’ve been brain drained in the past, I’ve always asked friends or people I meet for a column idea. Over half the USF students I ask say “write about parking.” Second on the list? “Write how much the dorms suck.” I’ve written both, but keeping up the tirade is not the work of one man.

People with issues on both of these things need to get together (parking through SG, residents through RHA or some other organization) and just raise enough hell to get attention. If you haven’t noticed, the front page of this fine publication is usually occupied by people who aren’t necessarily large in number, but loud in voice and opinion. Being able to write a good press release doesn’t hurt either. Until then, live off campus (it’s cheaper and better anyway, and if you’re a freshman you don’t pay the “freshman food contract tax” imposed by the University), and take the shuttle.

You can’t ever predict how much mail you’ll get on a column. I write about Dr. Al-Arian, exotic dancers or gun control … and sometimes get little or no response. I write about a video game I’m hooked on and get dozens of responses from as far away as Cleveland and Oregon. Go figure.

What follows is pure speculation and conjecture on my part. The following is not based on any factual evidence I know of, it’s just what I’ve seen. There are 37,000 students at USF. Only about 3,700 are aware of any campus activities that go on or actively participate in any campus organization.

About 370 students step up to be leaders in some way, shape, or form. And about 37 students in Student Government decide where most of the $7 million A&S budget will be spent. In other words, there is a serious leadership vacuum at our university. To continue the great expansion we have made toward becoming a more traditional school, we need more students to become actively involved in our little slice of heaven between Fowler and Fletcher. We are a school with all the benefits of a Research I institution, but still have a campus life accessible enough that any freshman with time and desire can make real changes in how USF operates if they bring enough enthusiasm and desire. We need to find a way to keep that accessibility, yet expand how we train and recruit potential leaders.

Making predictions is an all-or-nothing deal.

You’re either genius or goober, there is no in between. I wrote on Election Day 2000 that anyone who didn’t vote that day should kill him or herself (yes, I was being sarcastic, and believe it or not, I didn’t get one piece of hate mail). I said that of any day in your life, your vote would probably never matter more than it did that day.

The 537 votes George W. won Florida by made me look like a prophet. I also said Janet Reno would get smart and get out of the governor’s race and USF would make the NCAA tournament this year. Whoops, my bad. But you have to step out on a limb sometimes … even if it’s a twig.

My column that ran on Sept. 11 was about Barry Bonds’ chase for the home run record. I remember waking up that morning and being very upset that the title chosen by my editor didn’t really fit what the column said. But just like most things, it seemed pretty damned trivial after that fateful morning. I just hope that after 9-11 all of us can continue to keep our lives in the proper perspective.

I could write about 100 more of these, and I have The Oracle to thank for that. I specifically want to thank the editors. They gave me tremendous leeway in what I wrote here and were helpful in helping me find my voice.

I also want to thank everyone who took the time to respond, both positively and negatively, to what I’ve written. Except for the occasional “you suck … signed Anonymous,” the feedback I got was very insightful and was very much appreciated.

Here comes the cheesy part, please indulge me. I want to thank everyone who has contributed in some way to my writing and the literally hundreds of people who I couldn’t list here but have made my time at USF so enjoyable. I’ve really tried to make the most of my college experience, and I couldn’t have done so without the great people I’ve met. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank you.

So I’ll continue to be here at USF, and I might even throw a guest column in here if I have to get something off my chest that I think is insightful. I got this job by literally showing up and asking and have enjoyed it tremendously for two years now.

This newspaper is always in search of people with opinions and ideas who can express them clearly, so if you want my job, come and apply. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I encourage you to find what you really want to do at USF and go for it. The opportunities are out there, you just have to go find them. Thanks for reading, and Go Bulls.

Collin Sherwin is a senior majoring in political