What is tradition worth?


Sophia Maltese, Editor-In-Chief

The phrase “Welcome back Streaks” no longer means communal gatherings on the quad, hugging old friends and seeing our favorite professors again. Instead, “Welcome back Streaks” sometimes cuts in and out, muddled by lagging wifi, barking dogs, hungry kids or even sparsely clad and unaware siblings (yes, this happened).

Still, we return in some capacity, which I am thankful for. Had we resumed in-person classes, the health and safety of John Carroll’s students and faculty would have been severely jeopardized. The administration made the difficult but appropriate call to move to online learning for the fall semester.

So here we are, distant but together, struggling through the slog of online classes, feeling the physical distance and ache of our John Carroll identity.

The question of how our semester will look has now been answered, but the remaining question is how will we create or sustain our identity as John Carroll students?

Our university is rich in tradition and heritage from the past of John Carroll itself to the intricate and storied pasts of each individual organization and student. At The Carroll News alone, we have over 120 years of passionate tradition. How do you communicate that legacy to students who are hundreds of miles apart? Perhaps more importantly, how do you maintain that tradition? And is that tradition worth anything at all?

For my specific case, the transition to online school means that we will no longer be able to publish a print edition of the paper. I took this news heavily, as I know that out of over 100 past editors-in-chiefs, I will forever be the one who transitioned to an all-online presence. Granted, this isn’t of my own agency. I lack a real choice, considering that our budget is slashed and a print edition is literally impossible.

Despite my situation, I remain the EIC who finally made the switch. At first, I felt guilty. Then, I began to question the real value of tradition.

There are some traditions that I love, like Christmas, fireworks and print newspapers. Each of these provides me with immense joy. Despite my fond memories, I realized that the term “tradition” felt very stagnant and cold.

In searching for a definition of tradition that satisfied my experience with it, I came across James F. Keenan’s teachings on moral wisdom. He wrote, “Our tradition is a lively, life-giving one, even though some use the term tradition to halt reflection, discussion, education, insight, wisdom, development, or growth. … In its richer meaning, however, tradition is always progressive, developing, and constantly calling us to receive it, enrich it, and humanize it.”

Though we are remote, we are not removed from tradition. The only barrier to believing that we are rests within our personal understanding of what that term means. We are tradition. We are creating it each second we spend involved with our favorite clubs, fellow students and professors. This is a new point in the history of John Carroll, and though it might be new, it is still rich, wonderful and spirited.

As journalist Katharine Rose says, “There is a real beauty to be found in tradition – a beauty that may not propel us forward in the sense of quantifiable ‘progress’ or change, but that does propel us forward as human beings in life wisdom, understanding and even emotional intellect.”

Again, this quote assumes that tradition is a grounded and unchanging thing. While I agree that our past actions are unmoving, our interpretation and base of knowledge is constantly shifting. For this reason, we must be flexible or we will inhibit our growth. I do not wish to become a dusty relic.

The Carroll News has moved online. This choice was not made lightly, but it was made thoughtfully and with due consideration paid to the rich history of our paper. I am honored to be a part of the tradition of The Carroll News and hope my fellow students creatively define their new spaces as the semester continues.