The above headlines are from year one of The Difference, a newspaper started in the fall of 2000 by the students of Colby. The mission, refined over the 2000-2001 year, is as follows:
“The Difference aims to address issues of social justice, counteract systems of oppression in society, and foster a safe place for oppressed groups to express themselves. The paper focuses on issues that affect us all at the Colby, state, national and international levels. It is our mission to create solidarity on campus and with the wider community. We have a responsibility to use the knowledge and resources that are at our disposal to bring awareness to Colby outside of the ‘Colby Bubble.’”
The idea for The Difference emerged from a meeting of activists and concerned students in December, 2000. In the days before the meeting, many Colby students had traveled to Georgia to participate in protests of the School of the Americas and had returned to Colby anxious to spark more activism. There was a general frustration with the lack of a safe outlet for expression and experimentation within the activist community. Colby had one regular newspaper, The Echo, which was poorly regarded and considered inhospitable to intellectual discourse. Hence, the idea of a new newspaper was born.
Eight days later, the first issue of The Difference was published. In tandem with the first issue, a meeting was organized for all Colby students, staff and faculty interested in becoming active in the Colby community, the local community, nationally and internationally. The Pugh Center was filled with over 150 people that night in celebration of a powerful sense of progressive thinking. Perhaps most importantly, the success of that meeting and the popularity of The Difference proved the notion of the apathetic Colby student is not pervasive, and in truth many Colby students are highly dedicated to creating a better world.
In the fall of 2000, shortly before The Difference was created, Colby inaugurated a new president, William “Bro” Adams. The theme of his inuaguration was “The Colby Difference.” Promotional materials for the inauguration featured the title surrounded by a collage of imagess from Colby. It seemed, though, that these imagess could have come from any New England small liberal arts college. Moreover, the facets of Colby often paraded as “different” were in fact the same superficial “diversity” elements of campus common to colleges nationwide; like the Colby viewbook, students and faculty of color were artificially reproduced as though they were far more prominent at Colby than in reality. Since one aim of The Difference was to present truly unique and unusual voices from Colby, it seemed most fitting that the publication use this term.
In its first year, The Difference managed to publish eight issues without any advertising and without official Colby funding. Financial support came generously from an array of sources, including SOAR, Women’s Group and the Education and Human Development Program. In the spring of 2001, The Difference earned club status with Colby so that it could continue with less financial stress in the fall.
The Difference served as an outlet for creative expression, a place for theoretical debate, and a source of news concerning issues that affect all of us. News stories have included pieces on the return to Colby of former professor Sandy Grande and former student Mayra Diaz for a day of reflection on institutional racism at Colby; an account of Colby students participating in various protests at the 2001 Bush Inauguration in Washington, D.C.; and a story on Colby’s involvement in the private prison industry through its food provider, Sodexho-Marriott. Features have included personal accounts from Hector Mondragon Baez, fall 2000 Oak Fellow, economist and indigenous rights activist from Colombia; multiple first-hand accounts of protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Quebec; and a reflection on American media representations of Africa by a Colby student from Kenya. The Difference has also published a series of point-counterpoint articles, highlighting debates on issues like hate crime legislation, the merits of the television program “Survivor” as fodder for armchair psychology, and the potential destructiveness of the lyrics of Eminem. The Difference prided itself on being an open, welcoming forum where ideas can be shared in an intellectually stimulating environment.