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The Salt Shaker Column - I'm Back

Andre Comella, Contributing Writer

Welcome to The Salt Shaker. What is it? Who am I? Well, the Salt Shaker is my new column for the Tech. In it, I hope to take on myriad issues at Caltech, and believe me, nothing is safe or sacred. I’ve been here long enough and been involved enough to know there’s a lot of problems with Caltech, some inherent, some caused by students, others by faculty, and administrators. In my time, I’ve done my best to stay involved and informed.

In the last year, I spent my time working in Cambridge and hanging around MIT. My friends at Tech tend to be people who are heavily involved in building communities and shaping campus politics, and my friends at MIT were no different. I spent a great deal of time immersing myself in MIT culture, meeting new people, and discussing MIT culture, present and past. This experience gave me a new perspective, challenging the things I had thought about Caltech. So many parts of Caltech I took as given, inherent to a highly academically demanding university. But this simply isn’t the case. The irrational and patronizing administration, the poor education from apathetic professors, the toxic culture and status quo of crippling depression. All of these don’t need to exist.

And so I have returned, with new thoughts and new perspectives. Three years here have given me experience. A year away has given me time to think, discuss, and analyze with the kind of clarity that can only come with distance. Despite the draining and crushing experiences I’ve had, the monumental inertia of the Institute, the daunting task of pushing for change, I find myself with an unusual feeling: optimism. No one made it to this school without strength and determination, and it is those qualities that will bring us to our brighter horizons.

So now I’m sitting in my room, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, thinking about what it means to have a legacy. My year away gave me a unique opportunity to see what I had done, and what I will leave behind. I will admit, with some shame, that there was a sense of satisfaction that came with knowing that some things were worse off, weren’t going as smoothly. There’s something deeply validating about knowing my presence had an impact, and smugly satisfying in knowing my critics would be forced to admit my positive impact by confronting its absence.

Here once again, I find myself with the opportunity to make a new impact. If the kind of impact I have is the kind that needs me to be here, then it’s not serving a greater good, it’s just stroking my ego. So to do something truly selfless and meaningful, I have to create something beyond myself. My goal here, in this column, is to use my thought, insight, and experience to spur discussion and change. To make an impact, however small, in this school and its people, that will last beyond my presence and even my memory. Legacy is about creating something that outlives you, something that lives beyond you, growing, changing, and ideally, improving.

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