By Allyson Noenickx
A Contest of Ideas (ACI), a new and independent journal of opinion at the College, was recognized as an official Registered Student Organization (RSO) on Feb. 6. The journal, which was approved unanimously by the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate in November 2016, was spearheaded by Editor in Chief, Foreign Policy Editor, and Democratic Politics Editor Billy Ford ’19 and Assistant Editor in Chief and Philosophy Editor Connor Hennessey ’19. The latest ACI articles and content can be accessed at acontestideas.com.
“Our inspiration for ACI arose from a void on campus that we felt desperately needed to be filled,” said Hennessey. “While other publications on campus exist, they cater to very different needs than those ACI seeks to fill. By starting ACI, Billy and I aim to provide a platform for writers to express their opinions freely––regardless of ideology or political background––and allow for the critical discourse that we feel this campus has been missing.”
According to ACI’s website, “It is our mission to create a robust discussion on campus about the problems we face as a world, as a nation, as a local community, and as individuals. Our long term goal is to begin to prepare ourselves for the lifelong work of solving these seemingly intractable issues by engaging in critical discourse. A Contest of Ideas is a nonpartisan journal, and is not affiliated with any one religion. Rather, it seeks to engage writers of all faiths and ideological backgrounds.”
ACI is comprised of three thematic concentrations––Politics and the Economy: Foreign and Domestic, Religion and Philosophy, and Social Justice. “We wanted students to look critically outward at the world––hence the Politics and the Economy: Foreign and Domestic section,” said Ford. “We wanted students to look inward at themselves, at how they shape meaning or how our writers think they should shape meaning––hence the Religion and Philosophy section. The last section––Social Justice––really pulls these first two sections together. It’s the lens we want to place on how students look outward at the world and inward at themselves. Acute concern for the poor, the marginalized, the greater good of this world, must be what shapes this campus discussion about the problems we collectively face. It is a way of beginning to put into action the education for justice we receive here at Holy Cross; it reflects our deep-seeded belief that those who have been given great gifts in their lives––such as four years at this College––have a solemn obligation to use them in the service of others.”
The journal’s website also features three additional sections that fit within the larger thematic concentrations, but aim to draw campus’ attention to more targeted issues. The Profiles in Courage section, created in the mold of the late President Kennedy, highlights courageous persons throughout the country and the world. The Green Zone: Spotlight on Climate Change subsection aims to draw students’ attention to the issue of climate change––what the journal claims as “the greatest threat to our world outside of nuclear war or meltdown.” The Local Community: Holy Cross and Worcester section provides students with a forum to discuss important debates and issues concerning campus life––serving as a place for longer form opinion pieces on what’s going on at the College and in Worcester and how we can improve the communities around us.
The name for the journal was inspired by President Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. “When talking about the many ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats, then-President Barack Obama said, ‘it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes this country forward.’ Naturally Obama kept talking after he said that line, but I had momentarily stopped listening. I began repeating that sentence over and over again in my head––it was electrifying,” said Ford. “This ‘contest of ideas’ has solved our nation’s problems since its founding; during this time of hyper-partisanship and polarization, only a return to this honest debate will help move our country forward yet again. After hearing that line and mulling this over I knew ‘A Contest of Ideas’ had to be our name. We want writers of all faith and ideological backgrounds to write for us––it fit perfectly.”
Thus far Ford’s favorite part of this venture has been “bringing together people of similar and opposing opinions and hearing their different thoughts on proposed article ideas during staff meetings.” According to Ford, “Few article ideas come out looking like they did when they came in, and it’s really quite awesome to see how the various members of staff contribute to the refinement of ideas proposed by their fellows.” While ACI took a lot of thinking, writing, and editing to get it off the ground––and it was not a quick process––Ford assured that it has been worth every moment the team has spent on it.
Currently ACI’s content is available online, but in the future Ford and Hennessey hope to introduce a print edition of the journal on campus. “As a first-year RSO, we are not yet entitled to the funding that well established RSOs receive from student government. Once we have made a name for ourselves and prove that ACI will have longevity, we will have access to the funds necessary for producing print editions,” said Hennessey. Eventually, ACI hopes to have a bi- or tri-semester print edition.
ACI is always looking for more staff members. Additionally, there are two editorial positions open––Democratic Politics Editor and Foreign Policy Editor. Candidates for these positions must first become staff members before they can be considered for an editorial position. Those interested in writing for ACI are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest updates and articles, like A Contest of Ideas on Facebook and follow ACI on Twitter at @acontestofideas.