10 Questions with Sam Silverman & Ethan Cutler

Ethan Cutler ’19 and Sam Silverman ’19 are the Cutler Board president and vice president, respectively. This week, The Catalyst sat down with this dynamic duo to discuss memories and metamorphosis.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

The Catalyst: What is Cutler Publications?

Ethan Cutler: My family came to this country 1795. Nah, I’m just kidding. So, the story of the founding of Cutler Publications is actually sort of interesting. It was founded in the late ’60s when there was a controversy about a student publication and administrators and faculty were sort of threatening to impose more control on publications. And a professor named Ruth Barton, who the writing center is named after, sort of stepped in and said, “That can’t happen and should never happen in the future.” And, for that reason, she decided to create what was essentially a legally independent organization that would oversee and manage – financially but also otherwise – all the student publications. And, from the beginning, it was students sitting on the board of that organization with just a faculty advisor and a Karen West-like figure. I don’t know if it’s unique, but I think it’s unusual for journalism at a college to be set up like that. 

TC: What is your fondest memory from working with Cutler Publications?

Sam Silverman: One of my best moments at CC so far-besides turning in my thesis on Monday – was my last issue at The Catalyst. It was a super average issue, copy edited perfectly, but there was nothing exceptional about it. I think it’s easy when you’re EIC of a publication just to get caught up in the routine and then get hung up on every mistake anyone makes. And it’s like an imposter syndrome of sorts just being like “I’m just kind of keeping this alive, I’m like not really doing anything.” And then like seeing your last issue and genuinely being like this is better than where we started a year ago. And I just remember that night being so much fun after the fact because everyone was really stoked about that progress point. Yeah, it was a really great day.

EC: I don’t know if this is actually the best moment but I mean whatever the best moment is it’s going to be some time when members of The Cipher staff were working together on some long, difficult piece. And there’s often a moment where you’re not sure it’s going to come together. And then you sort of see how- via editing and working with the writer, and working with each other – it might actually come together. And the moment of seeing the synthesis is a huge relief, usually because you’re worried about it but also just a great feeling. And that happened multiple times, but when we were working on an issue during Fifth Block, The Deep End issue of last year, we had multiple long, hard to edit pieces which came together really well. And, you know, I knew that it had come together well and I liked it. But also, I was sitting in Poor Richard’s and we were distributing copies there. You know, of course my dream was always to like overhear someone having a conversation saying like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” And then there were these two older women sitting at the table next to me and one of them had picked up a copy and was reading it and was like, “Where is this from? It’s so good!” And then she found it was from Colorado College and she was like, “Oh my God. That place is despicable. I can’t believe this is from there.” And I was like, “Wow that was my dream moment.”

TC: Sam you’re a comparative literature major and Ethan, you’re philosophy major. What are your favorite things about those departments? 

SS: Just the constant reminder, I think, that nothing exists in a vacuum. I’ve been working on my thesis presentation today and my thesis, in a meta sense, is more or less about how Americans fetishize foreign conflict and you need to learn a foreign language in order to put things in conversation with one another. Which is why I ended up doing comp. lit. over an English/Spanish double major, because having those things exist at the same time in a classroom, rather than alternating, was really important to me. And I think I’ve just become a much more critical person because you’re taught not to take any text as its own thing or a truth. I just think I’ve become a much better understander of history from that department. 

EC: I think I would go on the record saying that I think our philosophy department is really one of the best around, mostly just because of the professors. I mean, you know, I have limited experience with other departments, but the philosophy professors, every one of them, takes the discipline to be academic and scholarly, but also more than academic. And as a consequence, they take students seriously not just as students but as people and participants in something that is more than academic. Especially as I hear more from friends at different places, especially larger colleges, the prospect of going into a professors office and asking things that are only tangentially related to class – but that are pressing and on your mind – and having a professor listen carefully to you and respond thoughtfully for like an hour is insane. The fact that, you know, we all feel entitled to their time is maybe insane in its own way. But, yeah, I think the best thing about it is that they really are willing to pour a lot of time and energy into students – not just into students themselves, but in the students’ work.

TC: If you come back as alums in 40 years down the road, what would you hope to see changed?

EC: This is going to sound bad, but I would hope to see the infrastructure crumbling. I understand this is a matter of economic necessity, but the institution pours so much money into infrastructure and amenities. And I just wish that students, and students’ parents, and funders’ priorities were more on like professors. Because there’s so much money lying around and such a comparatively small amount of it goes toward, like, helping teachers teach. And I also get the sense that teachers get less and less time to devote to teaching itself, a lot more time to various other tasks. What I really want to see is like teachers teaching small classes to students who are listening carefully. 

SS: Yeah. I think, maybe not those words, but I think I’d agree with that. 

TC: Who do you think will be more successful out of the two of you?

SS: Define success.

EC: Well, we could talk about, you know, different senses of the word. 

SS: I mean, I guess my opinion of success is like just enjoying what I’m doing everyday but also being like self-sustaining enough. I don’t know, like, next year – at least for the next few months – I’m going to be like living, and teaching, and guiding backpacking in Wyoming. And I’ve realized I need to be outside and like working with my hands for like my entire life. I know that, and that’s like success to me. And I’ve learned over the course of college that, while I so value school, I’m not an academic. And I’m really excited to just be like outside and like doing shit forever. And I think that would be successful for me. I think Ethan’s definitely smarter than I am, so we’ll figure that out later.

EC: I don’t think that’s true… What this is making me think of is, in middle school, we all had to take a class called “Study for Success” or something like that. And, like, when did it become a thing? Like, our parents’ generation cannot have ever taken a class with the title with the word “success” in it. So I feel we’ve grown up not being told, like, “You have to get a job and support yourself and that’s what success means.” In that case, Sam will be the more successful one, I predict. We’ve been told, like, “What does success mean to you?” I remember the teacher asking us as seventh graders. And, you know, like “Halo” or something. Like there’s this idea that success means something more than monetary success – which does not necessarily mean that it’s a good definition of success – but it means something like you have a career in which you are doing something that makes you feel unique and like you’re having an important effect on the world. And I’m not sure I’ll be doing that.

SS: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that teh testing of your faith produces steadfastress and let steadfastress have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who sire generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

EC: Yes. This should be the real answer because this will be the appropriate number of words: Let the record show that Sam and I have both picked up our pocket-sized new Testaments from some kind gentlemen in suits outside. And it’s made us realize that earthly success is really not the point, because what does earthly success matter if eternal damnation is to follow? 

SS: We also prefer the Old Testament, but this one will do today. Happy Passover.

TC: As seniors this academic year, you both lived off campus. What do you think is the best part about that?

EC: It’s half the price. And my neighbors have children, so they don’t make loud noises when I want to go to sleep. It’s also a good part of it.

SS: All my neighbors are in a band … I have a really nice balcony that overlooks Pikes Peak. I’ve had really good views; I love my balcony. I also can’t see school. I mean, I love that. It gets me walking. It’s great. It’s a mile from my house to Cossit, which is where comp. lit. is, and exercise is great. 

TC: Now it’s Block 8. Do you have any words of wisdom for current students? 

 

SS: Just doing academics here like is not enough. I think that extracurriculars are what’s going to end up driving your experience here, at least that’s what drove mine. I mean, we’re super lucky to have been involved in publications where that’s like not a work study job. But even like working, or doing the newspaper, or even going like to all the classes at the gym. I just think, you’re here to be a student, but if you wanted to like just do your classes, I think you would have gone somewhere else. Yeah, I think just take advantage of all that time that you’re not in the classroom. The things that I talk about to people about why I love this school, as I love my department, it’s not in the first minute of me talking.

EC: Okay that’s great because I’m going to say the opposite. And, you know, I don’t take saying the opposite lightly because I understand the value that extracurriculars can provide for people – including the ones that I’ve done and that you’ve done, which some are sort of similar. But, as a professor put it to me recently, it’s never again going to be the case that the only thing you have to do is study. And I really think that’s a rare and important opportunity. And so if I have any words of wisdom, it would be to find good professors and try to learn everything you can from them. And before you sort of make your classes a secondary concern and take on some sort of extracurricular –  which likely will be something that you could pursue after college – really give learning its chance. Like really throw yourself into different things for at least a couple of years because you’ve really got to be sure. I loved working for Cipher and I learned a lot from it, but I definitely wish that I had made studying more of a primary concern. I know that’s sort of an unpopular opinion, probably, but I think we’re too quick to sort of make it the secondary.

TC: If you two were in a book, which book would it be and what characters would you play? 

EC: The New Testament … No, it would have to be a book about like two people who are in charge of a–oh, you know what it should be? What’s the Kafka book about metamorphosis?

SS: Yeah, it’s called “Metamorphosis.” 

EC: Yeah. Whatever the book is, we should be in a Kafka book. Because, I feel like, so often we are dealing with certain elements of bureaucracy that make absolutely no sense. And it is as if we are in some sort of…

SS: Who gets to be Gregor the cockroach?

EC: I would say you can be the human version and I’m the cockroach.

CT: Can you ask each other one final question?

SS: What’s the one Cipher article you’ve never written but should have?

EC: So I think there’s a debate about academic freedom and a sort of concurrent debate about curricula that’s happening continually among the faculty members and affects students. And students have partaken in the debate, but are not really debating it amongst ourselves. And I think it would be really beneficial to have the arguments out there in print so that people can more easily assess them, you know. Because when a good article about this sort of thing is published, then it’s a way of moving it out of the rumor mill and into the realm of arguments and some educated opinions, which is obviously good. Oh, also, I wish I had been the movie critic for The Catalyst forever because it’s the best job ever.

EC: In the same vein, is there a class, or department, or teacher that you wish you had gotten to take a class with/in? 

SS: I think I just came into college like not that academically confident. And like I knew that I was a strong writer and I already spoke Spanish and I was like, “Oh well like this is what I’m good at, so this is what I’m going to do.” And I just had such an ego at the same time. It was like a very strange dichotomy that like I didn’t want to mess up. And I just came from like a really cutthroat private school where I definitely wasn’t at the top of my class, but I still did well. But I didn’t do as well as like half the students here who were like valedictorians of their 2,000-person high school. I think I didn’t feel smart when I got here. And so I only took classes that would reinforce me rather than challenge me to learn something new. So outdoor education is something I want to pursue in my life. And I’m so passionate about the outdoors, I could actually tell you so much about Colorado’s ecology, like just from picking it up from like hiking. And I feel like my technical skills have gotten really strong over the past few years and I just wish I had had the confidence to take like actual environmental and ecology classes. But I was just so scared of just being like either super average or like not studying, and not really investing in the class, and just being another student to like sit down and take a test. I just think I ignored it. And I don’t regret the skills that I’ve learned. I mean, I talked about this before about how I feel like I’m such a better person because of studying the humanities and studying them in such an interdisciplinary way, but I don’t know what deterred me from like not wanting to learn the things I like and I’m actually going to end up applying a lot in the next few years.  

Remi Shore

Remi Shore

Remi Shore

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