Life as We Know It

On the whole, UT is not a pretty campus.There's construction galore, Prez Court looks as if it was built in an era of architecture where excessive seas of concrete were considered aesthetically pleasing, and the statues on campus are either random (Europa and the Bull) or an eye-sore (weird star, swirly thing comes to mind).

But with that said, UT has some places that I'm going to miss when I walk down the graduation aisle, but the one I'll miss the most is the infamous "Student Voices" tree outside HSS.For those that haven't taken the scenic stroll outside HSS toward the Bailey Education Building, there's a path that runs in between a stretch of hedges away from Humanities toward Volunteer Avenue. Right before the intersection, there's a small plaque with "Student Voices: 2000" written on it.

While the sentiment of supporting student voices is a nice touch on this campus, what truly sets this section of campus apart is the fact that the tree the plaque was meant for is no longer there, but instead, all that remains is a stump and some weeds.So much for student voices.To be honest, I never really thought about this tree more than in passing for my first three years on campus.

It was something I would insert as a punch line to a joke at my own job at a student publication, which ostensibly is a student voice.But now, with this being the last thing I write for the Beacon, I can't help but think back about that tree, or more accurately, that stump.I feel like on big campuses like UT's, there's so much happening, so many people and so many ideas, that in that cacophony, too many students have their voices lost in the hustle and bustle.

Everyone has an opinion that they want to share, but not everyone has an outlet for it. They're voices are like that little stump, tucked away and unappreciated.I cannot say how thankful I am for the opportunities I've had at the Beacon. I came down to the office three years ago upon the suggestion of the then Editor-in-Chief Zac Ellis, merely because, as he put it, I "was an okay writer." And since that first article (which, by the way, was utterly terrible, so my apologies to Ed Walsh), I've loved my time here.The Daily Beacon is the most unique job on campus.

There's no other way to put it. No place challenges you and frustrates you more, but no place gives you memories like the Beacon.I've worked with some of the most talented, dedicated and truly wonderful people on this campus.

From Zac, who brought me in, to Blair and Emily now on senior staff with me, I can't say enough about the people I've worked with. Every member of the Beacon staff changed my life in some way. They made my college experience, and for that, I am grateful to every person who walked through these doors. Also, thank you to my girlfriend Annie, as without her corrections and patience, every word I printed would have been an incoherent mess.I'll miss Mrs. Pope, who is the model for how a truly great administrator works, Ms. Karen, Ms. Lynn, Eric and Patty. I'll miss the bomb shelter we call an office.

I'll miss playing Nintendo when I should be writing a column instead. But most of all, I'll miss the opportunity the Beacon gave me to find my voice and share it with the 20,000 people on this campus.So thank you. Thank you if you never even read my stuff, because you picked up the paper.You allowed my voice, and that of countless others, to be heard. Our words aren't confined to a corner on campus, hidden under weeds; they're here on this page, speaking loud and clear.

Thank you for the opportunity, thank you for the memories and thank you for the mild caffeine addiction I now have.I wasn't the best writer, or editor, but I tried my best. I will miss this paper more than I can say, and I'm more grateful for it than I could ever express in 650 words.

— Preston Peeden is a senior in history. He will be searching for cell signal in Crosset, Arkansas, next year, fighting the good fight in the Teach for America program. Hilarity is sure to ensue.

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