Storytime with Sten: The one where Community Standards found my values


Outside the UConn police department. Sten Spinella wrote a paper for Community Standards after being awarded a ticket. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

I was wrongfully awarded a ticket from the university police force, and, as a result, I had to meet with the lovely people in Community Standards (CS). They really are reasonable, and in this assertion lies the only part of what you are to read where I am not being facetious. Quoted here is an edited version of my “Values Paper,” which I had to complete as punishment for CS. I was given a list of values and told to write two to three pages on what mine are going forward.

“I have innumerable values, but the three I hold the most dear are boldness, truth-seeking and love.

“Being bold is important to me. It is necessary to working in journalism or in the humanities and holding the powerful accountable – such as when police overstep their boundaries, abuse their power and ruin parties. If such a situation were to arise, I would speak up and let my voice be heard for the people who have been treated similarly in the past and are at risk of being treated that way it in the future. Boldness is pertinent to me because it takes an inherent brashness to write words that one believes are good enough to read, or to write words that might anger some people, even if it’s just a quick snippet of dialogue. For example:

“‘Joe, parties are a part of life, and this one is tiny, no one’s even outside, why don’t we let it go?’ Jim asked.

“‘Because, Jim, it’s our duty to protect, serve, and meet our quotas,’ Joe responded.

“It is true that, at times, my boldness has hurt me. Someone in a position of power may not find a bold attitude appealing. In fact, they may be offended by it. But boldness lends itself to accountability, and accountability, I believe, is a noble pursuit.

“On to truth-seeking. I consider this value necessary to any person who hopes to lead an honest life. This could be for government, for relationships, for themes in novels, etcetera. Seeking out the truth is essential to what I want to do, whether it is following a paper trail and exposing corruption, wondering at the motivations for certain political decisions, or exploring sensitive topics in my fiction writing like racism and family life. Seeking out the truth comes natural to me.

“It is that value of truth seeking, which I hold so dear, that leads me to do things like, if the situation ever arose, question police officers as to who called them and asked them to look into a gathering of my friends. I mean, it couldn’t have been my neighbors (in this speculative instance) – they have larger parties every weekend and I even asked them directly if they sold me out that night and the next morning (theoretically). Could it have been the apartment company’s parking attendants (in an abstract sense)? I don’t see the motivation (for the parking staff to have ratted on me, since no one was outside, in this fictional yarn). Hypothetically, of course, could the police have simply made up this alleged phone call in order to extract a ticket from a possible perpetrator? It’s certainly conceivable, conceptually. It is contexts like this, in which I will never know the answer, that the need to know drives me, so that maybe I can find out the truth when the answer is available.

“Finally, we have love. Love is unquantifiable and undefined, omnipresent yet hard to find. All I know is that I need it, I give it and I feel it when I see it.

“Love is why I like to be surrounded by my friends on the few off days I have. It is why we make merry and dance to loud music – the connection with one person or a group of people that makes you feel at home, that allows you to spread your love and enjoy the love of others. My love for boldness and truth-seeking means that I will challenge any unproven charges against me, if trumped up or wholly untrue, and it means that I would take a ticket, were I to receive one, all the way to the Supreme Court if I had to. That’s a form of love – love of self.

“Mostly, though, I value love because it is the purest form of happiness. If you love music, you can stop everything you’re doing to hear a song and be satisfied for a moment, maybe even dance outside in the peace of your neighborhood, where, hopefully, police will not be staring you down from two parked cars. If you love your family you will always have a solid support system. If you love yourself you won’t make masochistic decisions. If you love your studies perhaps you can pass that same intellectual love off to someone else one day. There are so many different types of love – romantic, nostalgic, material, metaphysical – and I’ve never met a type of love I’m not in love with.

“How to put these values into practice, you ask? I will be bold in my writing, for my thesis, for my future columns, for my creative nonfiction, my short stories, my novels, my poetry. I will not mince words. It will make me a better writer. I will advocate for love of one another as strongly as I can. I will research everything that comes my way and always make sure the truth comes to light. And I will love my professors, my peers, my studies, along with every new experience that comes my way in these final months.”

Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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