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  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

Letter to an old friend

The gate to Kirkland College, placed near Kirner-Johnson. | Gabriel Bit-Babik '25 for Monitor

Dear President Samuel F. Babbitt,

I have thought for a very long time about what I have to say to you as we begin Kirkland College’s 56th year atop this hill, the college you led with grace, too often overshadowed by its older brother who takes the credit for all her good ideas. Oh, boy oh boy, is he certainly a man.

Allow me to introduce us. This is the Monitor, Hamilton College’s social justice publication. As my predecessor would say, “though the Monitor has no allegiance, our responsibility as a publication is to the students and workers of Hamilton.” We’re the type of people who would have felt very at home at Kirkland. We believe journalism is, yes, a way to share reliable information with our community. But it’s also an opportunity for exploration, flexibility, play, and improving the world around us.

Whether it is hard-nosed investigative reporting uncovering the ways power works, perspectives challenging us to think more deeply about identity and community, photo projects capturing the vibrance of movements for justice, or any other play on style and direction, Monitor is the place for all those seeking to use their voice to build a better future. We always welcome new fellow travelers.

When I first arrived on campus, probably like the Class of 2027 who we now welcome, I came for the promise to Know Thyself – the promise that the people of this institution would provide to me an understanding not only of the world around me, but who I am in the world. I was promised freedom to explore, to learn how and what I wished, to engage with the world as my oyster. I have embraced that idea deeply, at this point an interdisciplinary major and having designed and completed three independent study courses.

You offered one last lesson to Kirkland graduates in your final year, in the waning hours of that tragic time between when the Hamilton Board of Trustees made their shameful betrayal, and when it came into effect:

“You have learned, if we have been successful, that it is good to have opinion, but not good enough if the opinion is not defensible. You have learned if we have been successful, that defensible opinion is only usable if it can be transferred to others comprehensively.”

I have taken the analysis my studies have offered me, most especially from the educators who have viewed me as both pupil and partner, as you once did, and applied it to the place where I eat, sleep, labor, and occasionally play. There is ample material on offer for study.

I love what this place once was and could be again were I so lucky to bear witness to it. Words cannot begin to describe the degree to which I love what I was promised and sold in that fragile time of my life between familiar comfort and unknown adventure. The only evidence I can offer you today is the sheer life force I have offered toward attaining it in high and low tides alike, the way in which I have held the often painful, incredible weight of my intense love for what I know we are not so far away from today. What I know many – most, I would venture – of those on and off this campus hold dear, too.

I have come, over the last few months, to rediscover the glimmer the Chapel’s bell once had for me. As I told a crowd now almost entirely gone from this institution four years ago:

“Our voices matter, and together they will form a chorus louder than the Chapel’s bells and more beautiful than the Glen. The sound of our love for this planet, this school, and one another shall ring across this campus.”

We are lucky, truly, to be here for this moment in our history. But – there is work to be done.

Let us begin.


Eric Santomauro-Stenzel


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