We made it, folks. It’s the end of the semester, the last issue of The Phoenix of the decade and finals are coming up.
It’s a lot ending, but there’s one very specific end I want to focus on.
Come next semester, our dear student media manager Ralph Braseth will be long gone, living out his life in Seattle, leaving us Phoens, Chicago and Loyola behind.
Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic. But it’s a pretty huge loss. I’ll do my best to explain why in 500 words.
There’s no such thing as a typical Ralph story. The man is anything but typical — a walking, breathing, swearing, joking, advice-giving, newspaper-throwing anomaly. If you ask anyone in this newsroom (or anyone who has been in this newsroom in the past however many years) they’ll have a different story about Ralph. And each story would likely puzzle you even more than the last.
I remember when he gifted former Phoenix Editor-in-Chief Henry Redman a gaudy sculpture representing the Last Supper. Jesus was wearing a crown. Ralph pointed to Jesus, looked at Henry and said “That’s you.”
I thought that was weird enough. Then, when I was hired as editor in May, Ralph called me into his office. Henry was there, giving me a knowing look. Ralph told me to close my eyes, and for some strange reason I decided to trust him enough to do it. In my blind vulnerability, Ralph revealed yet another gaudy Last Supper sculpture, this one even stranger than the last.
Ralph has made a habit of coming down to visit us on Tuesday nights. He often comes bearing gifts. Sometimes they’re appreciated — coffee or cupcakes or candy. Sometimes we accept them with a bit of skepticism, like when he brings his old dress shirts and ties. Sometimes, he brings a whole box of knick knacks and gives us “personalized” tokens. Our Content Manager Maddy Baltas received a pressure cooker from Ralph about a year ago — it’s been used once.
As strange as he is, Ralph has been our confidant, our greatest supporter, our beloved teacher. He has fought tooth and nail for the right of this newspaper to do the work we’re meant to do, and for that we can’t thank him enough.
He’s been a guiding hand through some of our toughest decisions and praised us when we do well. But he’s also made it known when we mess up — big time. An email with a subject line that can make my stomach churn has crossed through my inbox more than once. But that’s only because I hold his opinion in high regard, and I’d argue everyone else on staff does too.
Once last year, Ralph made his way down to visit us in the midst of a busy production. He handed every editor a $2 bill and told us to commit to producing “kick-ass content.” I keep that $2 bill in my wallet to this day, and it’ll likely stay there for a while.
There’s a lot I’ll miss about Ralph. I’ll think back on his inspirational speeches on Tuesday nights, but more often I’ll remember the time he rewrote a Christmas song about Phoenix staffers — names and all. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ll remember the work he did, but I’ll focus more on the person he is. And of course I’ll keep in touch, Ralph, just try and stop me.
In our last issue of the semester, the news section dives into the uncertain fate of Dreamers, as two undocumented Loyola students sat in on Supreme Court hearings discussing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The sports section analyzes the marketing strategy of the athletics department after criticism that it focuses too much on men’s basketball.
In opinion, columnist Patrick Monnin draws attention to the plastic problem in our very own Lake Michigan, and A&E gives a closer look into the coffee shop Sip of Hope, which serves up mental health resources along with its typical brews.