The Student Movement

Letters to the Editor

Letters From Past Editors

Andrews University Student Movement Editors

Our university, Andrews University, is celebrating its 150th year as an institution in 2024. We here at the Student Movement would like to celebrate this by sharing the wisdom, stories, and experiences of SM editors through the years. The following letters are addressed to the Andrews University community of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


Dear Andrews Students (Past, Present, and Future):

My two years on the staff of the Student Movement illustrated an Adventist version of the

Sixties — a paradoxical mixture of confidence and pessimism, seasoned with considerable self-

importance. We were certain that our work on The Student Movement was very important and

would be remembered.

When I pick up Gilbert Valentine’s recent history of Adventism in those days (“Ostriches

and Canaries: Coping with Change in Adventism, 1966-1979”), I think I was almost right. As

Valentine seeks to understand the leadership of General Conference President Robert Pierson, The

Student Movement and its iconoclastic editors show up repeatedly. “The brethren” were paying

careful attention to our student journalism in 1968-70, resulting in more than one tense meeting

with church or University authorities.

I never imagined, a half-century ago, that I would ever be old and white-haired. Listening

to the debunking voices all around me in 1970, I managed to combine considerable skepticism

about the world with a clear apocalyptic faith. I did not need to consider the long view. Human

beings, I was sure, had painted themselves into a corner, and would only be rescued by God’s

imminent intervention — before I became a grandfather.

Now, as a retired educator, I am impatient with cocksure promises to “change the world.”

I wish I had thought more deeply about what could change and what was permanent. As a young

and self-conscious reformer, I might have reflected on the continuity of human nature and the

failure of root-and-branch revolutions around the world. I shouldn’t have been surprised, years later, that China acquired a stock exchange or that the current dictator of Russia would attend


Looking back, I am proud of my work as managing editor and then editor-in-chief of the

  1. But I won’t start humming Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” or, even stronger, Piaf’s “Je Ne

Regrette Rien.” I do have a few regrets. I see missed opportunities: books I should have read,

classes I skipped, and too much gullibility about the assumptions of popular culture.

“Strengthen the things that remain,” said Bob Dylan (and John the Revelator). What

remains for me? A few days ago, I had a long, leisurely lunch with Don McAdams, one of

teaching stars of 1970, now a vigorous man in his eighties. He gave me a vintage copy of “The

Education of Henry Adams,” one of the books I wish I had read in 1970. We shook our heads

over present folly (“When did the world go crazy?”) but mostly talked about the future and a

book we are planning to write. Somehow, I think that the 20-year-old editor of 1970 was there in

disguise, chastened, yet still enthusiastic about getting at the truth.

Eric Anderson (1969-1970)



I was SM associate editor in 1969-70 under editor Eric Anderson, and chief editor in 1970-71. The two

previous editors had taken, by SDA standards in the 60s, an activist stance. Though Eric and I were and still are serious about our piety, having spent our careers as SDA professors and church leaders, we also saw ourselves as alert to the times.

In December ‘69, we posted a large centerfold photo of a very Black Santa Claus, holding a bag of toys over his shoulder and saying, “Oh, were you dreaming of a White Christmas?” Our advisor, the AU journalism teacher with cultural roots in the American South, was offended and told us we couldn’t print it. Eric and I appealed to the Academic VP (and later AU President) Grady Smoot. Smoot, a southerner but also a historian, overruled the advisor, and the picture ran. For a campus where many of us, Black and White, were trying to understand and address racial divides, but where the student center and cafeteria mostly ended up segregated-by-choice anyway, it was a healing moment.

It was a complicated time. A campus revival was sparked, at AU and also several other SDA campuses, as part of the larger charismatic Jesus Movement. The spirituality was deep, and in many cases lasting. But so was a lot of suspicion from the larger church about AU’s purported teaching and activism. The Seminary, under pressure from the General Conference, saw several key professors pressured out. The Vietnam War and racial inequality spurred campus teach-ins, and we organized an on-campus Earth Day in the very first year of its international celebration, in 1970. A recent book by Adventist historian Gil Valentine reveals that the GC was pressuring the AU president to rein in the Student Movement and other AU student leaders. At the same time, student leaders at several SDA campuses collectively pressured the GC to replace all the members of the GC Youth Department by under-30-year-olds. They responded by appointing one — Mike Stevenson, 31 — and replaced the aged Youth’s Instructor with Insight magazine, with two key editors being 23 and 24 years old. Even though we felt like we were merely writing on sand at the time, we can look back at some efforts that lasted.

Roy Benton (1970-1971)


I graduated from Andrews University 34 years ago. All these decades later, my memory of Andrews is

that of a comfortable bubble. Tucked away in a small campus adjacent to a small midwestern town, it was easy to forget about the outside world. Looking back, many of the controversies in our community were small too – I remember arguments about wearing jewelry, going to a movie theater, and listening to certain kinds of music.

I hope that in 2024, the issues of my college years seem quaint or even silly. I hope that the Andrews

community is using its collective wisdom to address dire problems such as climate change, threats to our democracy, income inequality, reproductive rights, and political polarization instead of pierced ears and rap. Working to solve the grave issues facing our country and the world at large requires, among other things, critical thinking, careful research, respectful listening, compromise, civic engagement – all skills that a university should foster. During my time at Andrews, many of my professors taught these skills (thank you from the bottom of my heart), but life outside individual classrooms was not necessarily so accepting of people who did not adopt the party line. Again, I hope this has changed.

As the Dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana, recently observed: “The purpose of [an] education is not to shield you from ideas you dislike or silence people you disagree with. It is to enable you to confront challenging ideas, interrogate your own beliefs, make up your own mind, and learn to think for yourself.” This is not an easy task – perhaps even more so at a church-affiliated university. It requires acceptance of dissent. It requires buy-in from the administration, the faculty, and the students. It can be uncomfortable; it can be frustrating; it can be scary. But, repressing dissent and difference doesn’t rid a community of those ideas; it simply deprives the community of the opportunity to discuss them.

In a country where many citizens have retreated into their own small tribes of political beliefs, geography, and religious affiliation, it seems to me like Andrews has a wonderful opportunity and civic responsibility to teach its students how to be well-informed members of the global community. I hope it is doing so.

Lee Seltman (1989-1990)


When I think back on my time as Editor-in-Chief of the Student Movement, nothing could have prepared me (a mostly quiet, shy girl) for the political pressure I had to quickly learn to navigate. During my tenure, I saw a significant shift in the campus culture at Andrews, and for the first time, the student handbook was revised to include language that began protecting students against discrimination, based on sexual orientation. These changes were momentous, but I had a tough decision to make. On one hand there were concerns that publishing the story would upset alumni and other financial supporters of the Student Movement. On the other hand, students who identified as LGBTQ+ relied heavily on the Student Movement to be the place where their stories could be told. The expectations of faculty, staff, and alumni was a pressure that I had to learn to navigate, but it was always the student voice that served as my compass. As a journalism major, it was important to me to publish news stories that were fair, accurate and most importantly unbiased, regardless of my own personal opinions. I had to step into a leadership position and ensure that the stories we were publishing on a weekly basis, really embodied the voice of the student population. It was a huge responsibility, but I had God.

 What I cherish most, is the mentorship and support Dr. Scott Moncrieff and his wife gave me during my years as Editor-in-Chief. I was a first-time leader and I made mistakes, but Dr. Moncrieff graciously corrected me and taught me how to be a respectful and kind leader. I’m so proud of the work I was able to accomplish, and I pray for God’s continued blessings on the future of the Student Movement.

Samantha Blake-Hobson (2011-2013)


Dear Andrews University,

Congratulations on 150 years! Though my life has changed dramatically since the four years I spent debating philosophy in the Honors office, staying up late writing papers in Lamson Hall, and picnicking under your many trees, whether aflame with fall colors or in full spring bloom, I will always be grateful for my time with you. You gave me a first-rate education, cherished mentors and friends, and a place where I could find my voice and know someone was listening. 

As the editor-in-chief of The Student Movement in its 99th and 100th years, I spent a lot of time in the archives digging up articles about World Wars, presidential elections, and the greatest social issue of the 1960s: whether men should be allowed to have beards. This work helped me appreciate the generations of scholars and seekers before me - and it also allowed me to see, with the clarity of hindsight, how administrators and students sometimes took stances or enforced policies they would later regret. 

During my time as editor-in-chief, we were proud to publish articles or issues addressing substance abuse, accessibility, mental health, and - most famously - justice for LGBTQ+ people. We also made mistakes, most notoriously in our coverage of race: mistakes reflective of inequities across campus that were later addressed head-on in #It’sTimeAU. I learned, at the SM, when to listen - and when to speak out against injustice. 

If I have any advice for the next 150 years, it is that universities are places for asking questions, with courage and conviction. As Madeleine L’Engle reminds us in “Walking on Water,” if we truly have the truth, then we have nothing to be afraid of, for the truth can withstand scrutiny. Never stop asking questions. Never stop speaking truth to power. 


Melodie Roschman (2013-2015)


When I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure how to begin. I wasn’t even sure what kind of letter I wanted to write—as history will bear out, my own writing for the Student Movement, collected on the back page over the course of two years, often expressed my hurt and frustration at my church, my country, and even on occasion my school. In those pages, I find a young woman taking her first steps into adulthood, and all the nuance and complications that come with it. Over my years working as first a staff writer, then copy editor, and finally editor-in-chief, The Student Movement was a safe space for me to question, to discover, to grow alongside my peers both as a person and as a writer. For that, I thank our faculty sponsor, Scott Moncrieff, who adopted a thoughtful approach that allowed myself and my friends to really feel like our work and opinions mattered, and that they were worth publishing on a weekly basis.

When I look back at the writing I did for The Student Movement in the years I served on its staff, I find that as much as I strove for excellence, as many mistakes as I made, in the end I was writing love letters—to the Andrews community, to my friends, to my church, to my country. I owe many of my life’s joys to the lessons I learned in that stuffy basement office, and to the connections it helped me forge: four years before I married my husband, he told me he was a regular reader of The Student Movement, and that he always flipped to my articles first. Here, then, is one last love letter.

Alexi Decker (2018-2019)


Firstly, I’m extra grateful for the editing team I got to work with during my time as Student Movement Editor. I loved our editing meetings and ideas sessions and lively debates. I liked the typing sounds that filled the room as, the night before each publication, we scrambled to make our last edits. And I appreciated the palpable excitement that hung over our wooden table whenever we breached topics that people were passionate about. Every section editor had a strong vision for their section, and in conjunction with some solid student writers, I think we were able to produce a pretty good year of newspapers.

Amidst the good times, I’ll admit I was frustrated plenty—and for various reasons. But I was particularly vexed when articles written by passionate students—and backed by supportive editors—were discouraged from being published for the sake of avoiding controversy. It’s hard to watch the voices of intelligent and articulate students being tamped down, especially knowing you can’t do very much about it. These experiences led me to further reflect on why our churches and schools haven’t yet tackled a bunch of challenging topics, especially those surrounding our stance on the queer community. They made me wonder why we’d rather fear tough subjects, leaving them buried and ignored, instead of exploring them with God’s love as our guiding light. My time as editor taught me to deeply appreciate the people within our Adventist systems who ARE trying to ask these hard questions, to bring about change. And it also taught me that challenge is essential to change. Challenge forces us to adapt; to think deeper, become stronger, and continually grow in compassion. And in that sense, I’m thankful for every bit of it.

Alannah Tjhatra (2022-2023)


Dear Student Movement,

I want to commend you for providing a space for AU students to exchange their varied

perspectives and values.

During my tenure as a Student Movement (SM) writer, section editor, and Editor-in-

Chief, I learned the importance of balancing how to stand firm in my own beliefs while

listening to and providing platforms for ideas with which I may have disagreed.

Working with diverse groups of multiple SM teams for several years also truly enabled

me to appreciate the deep well of ideas and lives lived even just within the small circle

of the campus community.

From my experience, it is easy to develop myopic views when we are surrounded by

people who share the same perspectives. I think this can become especially more

manifest in places where many may share the same upbringing or backgrounds. Yet,

150 years of AU history show that the worldviews within AU have become indubitably

more varied in depth and scope, with the SM giving a platform for those ideas to be

shared. It is incredible to see the SM remain a bulwark for free expression and thought

throughout the years.

I fully believe that any person who has the chance to work with the SM should take

pride in it, particularly because of the valuable skills and lessons it can teach. The

responsibility, curiosity, advocacy, compassion, and camaraderie fostered within my SM

teams are ideals I continue to carry with me in my professional endeavors.

I am so proud to see The Student Movement continue on as an institution that our

students and community can use to express themselves and stay informed. I look

forward to hearing more of your continued successes!


Andrei Defino (2017-2018)


During my undergraduate years, I found Andrews’ tagline “World Changers Made Here”

a bit overdrawn, especially so now after serving in pastoral ministry for several years. How can I

change the world when I can hardly change the culture of a small church? This is nothing on

Andrews; it is the lot for most idealistic young ministers both within Adventism and without. What

is more true, at least in my case, is how my world changed here.

When I look back at my time at Andrews, I miss my friends, my professors, and the

excitement of learning. But perhaps what I presently miss more is the latitude of intellectual

exploration afforded to questions of faith and theology. Academic freedom is to be expected at

any university. But given the Adventist motto that our only creed is Scripture, we were taught

how to wrestle like Jacob with Scripture and its application. In conversations around the dining

table or in the hallways of Buller, I enjoyed a community that, by and large, gave us room to ask

questions and did not always return pat answers.

It’s easy to romanticize this time. We often talked just as much about basketball and

video games as we did theology and schoolwork. There were also the clear boundaries of

Adventist teaching that gave guardrails to our questions. Yet if I could take something with me, it

would be the spiritual community and culture I enjoyed. It is one I’ve sought to cultivate in my

ministry: a place that is patient with people in the winding journey of walking with God and which

possesses the integrity to withstand and even invite questions. This passion was born at

Andrews, and I carry it with me still. I may not change the world, but I hope to pass on this

change in me.

Frentzen Pakpahan (2019-2020)


The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.