BY EMILY BERNSTEIN '18
When I committed to attending Mount Holyoke four years ago, I made a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do and accomplish here. One thing on my list that I remember distinctly? “Join MHN.”
I first read Mount Holyoke News on a shadow day in October 2013. I was sitting in the library atrium, drinking a hot chocolate from Rao’s and waiting for my host student to come get me after her Russian class. Looking for something to do, I saw a basket with the latest issue of the paper, picked up a copy and started to read. I remember little of that issue, but the words across the top struck me: “An independent student newspaper since 1917.”
Nearly 100 years’ worth of smart, driven students had made the newspaper what it was, as it sat in my hands right then and there. I knew I liked to edit, I knew I was handy with spelling and grammar and I decided that if I got in and attended, I would be a copy editor for the paper.
But it took me a long time to come around to Mount Holyoke. I didn’t want to go to an “all-girls school.” My college counselor pleaded with me to consider “just one women’s college,” and I relented, given that it was my mother’s alma mater.
Having lost my mother, Jill (Weiner) Bernstein ’84, to breast cancer earlier that year in June 2013, I was searching for a way to feel connected to her even after she was gone. That was ultimately an enormous influence on me, and there I had it — I was in, and I was going to Mount Holyoke.
I came to Mount Holyoke as a student in fall 2014, and felt all of those excited and nervous feelings that firsties feel. Shy by nature, I found the loud and crowded org fair in Chapin overwhelming, and I decided I would get in touch with the Mount Holyoke News staff later on. But I didn’t. Call it shyness or call it cowardice, I just never pursued it.
That January, a springie named Lindsey McGinnis arrived on my floor in Prospect Hall. We were friendly, but not quite friends. I knew she wanted to be a journalist and study abroad in China, but that was about it.
Fast forward to the following fall. I had applied to be an orientation leader along with some of my friends. Lindsey had applied to be an orientation leader as well, but on her own. When orientation training rolled around, we found one another as familiar faces in the crowd, and spent much of the next two weeks together.
Little did we know, a friendship was being formed that would last throughout our years at Mount Holyoke (and beyond, we suspect!).
So this past summer, just before senior year began, Lindsey proposed an idea to me. She thought that given the upcoming 100-year anniversary of Mount Holyoke News, we could do something — a web series, a podcast or a series of articles — celebrating the history of the paper.
I was excited. I have always found myself fascinated by Mount Holyoke’s history. It started as an attempt to comb through every archival photo and document for signs of my mother, and ultimately led me to build something of a repository for Mount Holyoke trivia in the back of my mind.
All of this to say — MHN 100 felt like kismet. I finally found my way to Mount Holyoke News (albeit not as a copy editor) and I got to use all of the little Mount Holyoke tidbits floating around in my mind to craft real stories of the history of this school and the paper that documented it. And I got to create something wonderful with my dear friend and beloved Editor-in-Chief Lindsey McGinnis.
It has meant so much to me to have been able to write for the paper this year. I was hesitant to publish pieces of writing with my name attached to them, but remembering Mount Holyoke’s history — both positive and negative — is something of a passion for me. Yes, it is personal, in the sense that I am still looking for clues about what it was like to be here when my mother was, as we never got to talk about it. But it is also because I have come to love this place as a home that helped me grow into myself, and I know that we can always work to make it better so that future students can find themselves here, too.
How can we make something better? By looking to the past. At the end of the day, I am not a journalist, nor will I ever be. I am a teacher at heart, and as I profess to my students on a regular basis: we cannot measure our success without knowing where we’re coming from.
So, to my dear fellow students: remember to care about Mount Holyoke’s past. This institution wasn’t perfect then, and it isn’t perfect now. But what we can see throughout Mount Holyoke’s history is growth, change and, naturally, discourse.
Mount Holyoke News has provided a space for students to converse for 100 years and counting. Both casually, in places like the now-defunct Personals section, and formally, in Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor, which continue to be spaces of passion and debate to this day.
What wasn’t understood well in decades past — like the need for mental health services on campus and for dedicated spaces for marginalized voices — has been transformed into changes in the paper and on campus, including the unlimited counseling sessions at the Health Center, the addition of the Third World Voices section in the 1979 and the establishment of the Visibility section in 2018.
Keep Mount Holyoke’s history alive for another 100 years. Maybe one day, MHN 200 will be written by a group of friends who are dedicated to history, Mount Holyoke and the News.