The actual process behind writing a consensus

Photo by Brenda Lin

I have written for the Technique for nearly three years now and during my time here, I have learned a lot. I have come to be able to expect which articles will be picked up by larger networks, which ones will be controversial, which ones will be loved by alumni and even which ones will be the most fun to write.

The one thing, though, that never fails to surprise me, time and time again, is how misconstrued many people’s idea on the purpose of consensus can be.

Consensus is, in its essence, a two-hundred some odd word editorial written by the Technique Editorial Board. There in lies the reason we place this article in the opinions section — because it is, in every way, an opinion.

In trying to decide how to approach the larger question of “What is the real purpose of consensus?” I thought it would be best if I walked the Tech community through the steps that go in to producing each consensus each week.

First, during our Tuesday night Editorial Board meetings, we discuss potential ideas for consensus. Always, at this point, the foremost concern of ours is choosing the most relevant topic.

We throw around ideas, discard many on the basis of them not affecting enough students or not being an important enough issue, and eventually decide on one idea.

At this point, we also decide how we will get the information and research we feel we need to write a truthful and informative consensus.

The next day, or as we at the ‘Nique call it “Deadline,” is when we put together the paper.

And every Wednesday, at 9:00 p.m. sharp, the Editorial Board meets once again to discuss, hash out, formulate and create our consensus piece. We spend anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours collectively crammed into the Editor in Chief’s office.

We only leave when we feel that the majority of the Editorial Board, and most often every member, is proud to have their name attached to the article.

At this point in this editorial, or as I am currently thinking of it, this public service announcement, I would like to emphasize, highlight, bold, italicize and permanently embed in the minds of everyone who reads our paper one idea: that consensus is, in every way, an opinion.

This is not to say, however, that consensus can be purposefully false.

Consensus is not a privilege we would ever dream of using to harm any student organization’s reputation or to erroneously report information. At the end of the day, the purpose of consensus can be consolidated into one goal: to create a conversation.

We never go into consensus, or for that matter leave consensus, with the idea in our heads that our word is the absolute truth. We know that what we create is just one view on an important Tech matter.

Yes, it is the view that we believe would best benefit the Tech community, but we are not claiming that view is the end all, be all.

All we can hope for is that our consensus opens the eyes of the Tech community to an issue on campus and begins a productive discussion on how best to approach the issue.

I use the word issue here mostly for lack of a better term. I will be the first to admit that our consensuses vary in their degrees of importance.

Just in my time on the Technique, I have been a part of consensuses that have covered everything from food court options to sexual assault on campus.

By writing a consensus on a topic, we are not claiming that it is instantly equal in importance to improving mental health of campus or decreasing crime rates.

All we are saying is that for that week, our editorial board agreed that discussing that topic would be the most beneficial and productive option available.

Consensus is not only constrained by time, though. It is also constrained by space. We are a printed newspaper and so we cannot just fill the abysses of the internet with our thoughts.

On average, consensus is fixed to 250 words. When bigger issues arise, we sometimes stretch that space to 300 words, but even then it is not a lot.

I would prefer to be able to wax on about the different options available; I would like  for us to be able to consider every fact and facet in our analysis, but we cannot.

I would like to impress upon the Tech community that if an idea gets a single sentence in a consensus, the Editorial Board must have thought that idea absolutely necessary to understanding our opinion.

While brainstorming this topic, I spoke with several of my fellow editors and asked them, point blank, what the purpose of consensus meant to them.

The majority responded that it was like a personal letter from the Technique to the administration, the organization or event we were discussing, and always, the student body. I would like to further this idea.

I believe that consensus is one of the most useful tools the Technique, and the entire Tech community, employs.

Do not look at consensus as a news report or an unnecessarily harsh critic, look at consensus as a lens, a single view that is the culmination of the perceptions, beliefs and interpretations of eight very different Tech students.

In consensus, we are not saying we want you to adopt our opinions, we are just saying we have them.