Pub Council meets to discuss bylaws

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November 18, 2008

1:01 AM

__Editor’s Note: Flat Hat Editor-in-Chief Austin Wright ’09 did not read or edit the content of this article for publication.__

The Publications Council discussed major changes to their bylaws at a meeting Friday. The revisions were prompted after the Council denied seed funding to feminist magazine Lips last semester.

The Flat Hat is a member of the Council, along with various other campus publications including The DoG Street Journal, Winged Nation, WCWM, WMTV and The Pillory. The council chooses editors for and oversees funding to member publications on campus.

The meeting began with the election of DoG Street Journal co-Editor-in-Chief Jonna Knappenberger ’09 as the Council’s chairwoman. Knappenberger was the only editor interested in the position.

The Council then discussed bylaw revisions, but no changes were made.

First the Council discussed changing voting procedures. The current bylaws call for voting members to include two at-large students, two publication editors and three faculty and staff members. Assistant Vice
President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine noted that the voting system had largely fallen apart in favor of votes from each publication.

Currently the Council has no at-large student members and only one faculty member, law professor Patricia Roberts J.D. ’92.

Although most publications were responsive to changing the rules to allow each publication a vote, Lips founder Annie Brown ’10 was opposed because of possible biases.

“There were reasons the rules were set up,” she said. “Having publications vote on who is being welcomed into this community … is a little bizarre.”

Monitor Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Meisinger ’10 countered that the bylaw’s voting system marginalizes most of the publications.

“I don’t particularly feel comfortable saying to other editors here, ‘you can’t vote, two other people are going to vote,’” he said. “The transparency concerns undermine us as a body.”

The conversation continually returned to the denial of seed funding the Lips, which proved controversial. Ultimately, Roberts and jump! magazine co-Editor-in-Chief Sherif Abdelkarim ’09, who were Council members last year, noted that the denial was not based on content.

Roberts and Abdelkarim recalled that the Council denied funding because Lips was receiving additional funding from the women’s studies department. The magazine had no editorial control, would print submissions without revisions and originally allowed for anonymous submissions, which Roberts said could be used to damage student reputations.

Roberts reiterated that the decision was not content-based, as Brown asserted, and that some publications’ coverage of the funding denial has bordered on libel.

The Council also discussed increasing the number of at-large student voters, although many noted that it was next to impossible to convince even one student to attend the meetings.

Next the Council discussed the selection of editors. Currently the Council selects publication editors, although Constantine noted generally that only one person applies for the position after going through a publication’s internal selection process.

Flat Hat Editor-in-Chief Austin Wright ’09 proposed a new system by which publications could either use an internal selection process or go through the Council.

“I just think publications that want to choose their own editors should be able to,” he said. “It calls our legitimacy into question.”

Roberts agreed.

“I’ve always felt uncomfortable voting for editors of publications,” she said.

Constantine objected to Wright’s assertion that the three faculty and staff votes amount to the administration having a major hand in choosing the editors of publication that then report on the administration.

Several publications wished to remain reliant on the Council to choose an editor.

“[jump!] magazine … has the potential to be unstable,” Abdelkarim said.

A subcommittee of editors was formed to draft language for bylaw revisions to be considered at the next meeting.

The Council also discussed whether it should provide seed funding to new publications, noting that it has limited resources.

Most publications considered the Council the right body to provide seed funding. Another subcommittee was set up to draft the appropriate changes.

The next Publication Council meeting is Friday, Dec. 5 at the Campus Center.

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