Senior Column: Finding a voice in isolation against injustice

The author, Sam Katz, then and now. Photos provided by author

I started my time at The Daily Campus as many new first-years did — after enthusiastically signing up at the involvement fair with two dozen other clubs and organizations. I can’t say why The Daily Campus stuck with me —  maybe it was a good excuse for younger me to use the Moe’s gift cards I won at raffles, or the Sunday night meeting time not conflicting with classes. But for the first semester of my first year, I expected to drop it in January. It was a fun thing to try out but writing about small student events didn’t feel fulfilling. 

I don’t feel the need to say what happened in spring 2020 —  we all know what happened. And for future students who don’t know what happened in spring 2020, go ask your parents. Quarantine was hard on everyone, including me. I felt for most of the first semester that it was wasted, participating sparsely in student life and struggling to adapt to college life. Now to be confined at home for what looked to be for the rest of my undergraduate years, these Sunday meetings were one of the few times I could interact with my peers in a non-academic setting. I found a lot more purpose in my writing during that time. It was more than covering what was happening with the University of Connecticut and the student body, it was a way to speak to everyone while all of us were constrained to our homes or a six foot distance. 

As 2021 began, I started to find myself and what best fit my style. It was best with weekly news beats, national politics or research done by professors. I could supplement my articles with reports from larger news sites, but as UConn returned to more lenient COVID-19 guidelines, I would go out more. I ended speaking to professors and students in fields or interests I would have never known of or considered talking with. As the world began to open up again, my goals from that second semester to open myself up followed suit. 

But it was in 2022 where I felt The Daily Campus was more than a hobby, but a necessity for me, because someone had to speak on the issues of that year. Above them all, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to which I have been the foremost reporter for The Daily Campus. 

I had been following some of the events leading up to the invasion for the past two weeks. When it happened, I could sense that this had a pejorative to be reported on. The invasion and surprising resilience of the Ukrainian people in face of war was simply too important to ignore. And when the Ukrainian Student Association held a protest on March 2, I was lucky enough to have a class canceled, so I was able to conduct an interview with the students protesting. These were students like us, whose relatives couldn’t be contacted, or had fled their homes as rockets rained down. Students whose hometowns were at risk of occupation, and even as early as the first week it was clear what dangers that posed. So I wrote. Weekly updates of the front lines, fundraisers, interviews with professors as for the impact of this war on the globe and in Connecticut.  

Since then, I have been covering the war in Ukraine as best I can. There are few chances to explore such an important topic, much less as it happens. I hope that through this, at least a few people have found themselves more educated and aware of the conflict even as it seems to have faded from the headlines of most news outlets. War doesn’t end when it stops appearing in our newspapers and television. 

A similar motivation drove me to cover growing encroachment of civil and personal liberties in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade. While the reversal has left the decision to the states, many states are taking aggressive and harmful measures that endanger lives. In lieu of this litigation, I have been reporting as well on how this has spurred on other discriminatory policies in parts of the country – against the LGBTQIA+ community, against religious and racial minorities, even how far-right paramilitary groups have been growing in number and agitation. Through this, I hoped to convey that injustice extends beyond our campus, beyond our state. That we cannot assume everything will be alright because our own communities are.  

It was this thought process that has driven most of my writing for The Daily Campus as a senior. To leave behind a legacy of thought-out, informative and awakening articles that hopefully can inspire all of us, as the days of isolation and separation pass by further, to make sure we do not separate ourselves from each other any longer. We are a connected community, one that will always depend on each other, one that cannot thrive by the isolation or silencing of any section of the community. As I prepare to walk on stage for the school of engineering, I wonder if my affiliation with The Daily Campus while in a field where investigative journalism and reporting is rarely required is one step in bringing our perspectives together. 

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