Oct. 7, 1952: The first edition of “The Spotlight” of Eastern Baptist College is one page long and includes two sections, Sportlite and Light Chatter. The second edition is similar, featuring information about Eastern’s sports teams, jokes about dishwashers and potential slander cases, not to mention more talk of couples. I find myself smiling at this comical issue until I am stopped short by a reference to President Guffin. You know that the names and faces have changed when the person you are reading about now has a building named after him.
Since then, “The Spotlight” has become “The Waltonian,” Eastern Baptist College has become Eastern University and life at Eastern has changed with the times – though much has remained the same. Naturally, Eastern’s student newspaper has evolved over the years; much of the content of recent issues is remarkably different than what the first reporters were writing about. Of course, there are superficial differences: as these items no longer hold the same meaning in our culture today, we do not discuss the significance of wearing a boy’s class ring (ah, 1952), nor do we publish the names of first-year students who have not been wearing their beanies.
All of this, however, is not to take away from the more serious issues writers boldly tackled. In 1962, a writer asked readers why they were in college. In 1963, a couple of alumni wrote a letter to the editor to say that they were “deeply grieved” by the college’s decision to make attendance at Spiritual Vision Week mandatory, expressing their “opposition to this scheme of dictatory Christianity.” A special shout-out goes to the 1973 April Fools’ Day issue, in which Archie Bunker from “All in the Family” was interviewed about his new role as President of Eastern College – a piece equal parts hilarious and telling.
In many ways, Eastern’s community has not changed much over the years. In 1972, an interviewee commented that students were “really nice and friendly,” pointing out that “everyone says hi,” while another student remarked that he liked the staff “very much, especially Dr. Campolo. I like their attitudes and what they stand for.”
On the other hand, not everyone was pleased with the direction in which the College seemed to be heading, and many expressed their criticisms in the newspaper. Some students stated that they felt Eastern’s rules and curfews were imposing, while others lamented that they could not openly share opinions that differed from those of their professors. Writers also called for the administration to reverse their new policy that made the former smoking porch a non-smoking area, deeming it “another attempt…to infringe upon the rights of students on this campus.”
And many agreed that the newspaper existed largely to fulfill this purpose of leading and facilitating significant, if often controversial, conversations. In 1982, the editors of The Waltonian articulated their vision to create a space for the discussion of “the political, sociological, and philosophical questions that so often arise in the transient affairs of our world,” which they regarded as important for “responsible Christians.” The editors continued: “The Waltonian invites correspondence – to know if you disagree, or wish to bring a neglected issue to the attention of the Eastern community, or even, perchance, to tell us you agree with something written in The Waltonian.” Since then, many students and faculty members have sent letters to the editor to address various topics, from gender-inclusive language to Eastern’s recycling program to the role of the journalist in advocacy.
Today, we recognize the need to discuss the issues that challenge us: in 2015, these include Eastern’s financial situation, views on human sexuality and the structure and vision of the University moving forward.
Nov. 11, 2015: The most recent issue of Eastern University’s “The Waltonian” is 12 pages long and includes five sections, News, Features, A&E, Opinions and Sports, in addition to a centerspread that highlights the different kinds of people that make Eastern’s community beautiful.
The “Epistle of Grace” became the “Faith Focus,” but the commitment to faithfully addressing topics surrounding Christianity has persisted. Students used to be featured in In the Spotlight; today, they are featured in the Student Spotlight, and yet the importance of telling their stories has not dwindled. Many of the issues have changed, but the dedication to discussing them openly and with integrity – in the student newspaper and in conversation in the community at large – lives today.
Past issues of Eastern’s student newspaper can be viewed in the Eastern University Student Newspaper database, which can be found on the library’s website.