EDITORIALS

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March 8, 2011

Make it explicit

ORCSA's policies for reviewing student publications should be more clear

The upcoming issue of Vita Excolatur, the campus’s student-run pornographic magazine, will be showing a little more skin but with a little more reservation. The age requirement to purchase is bumped up from 17 to 18, waiver forms will need to be signed by all participants (including people interviewed), and an opaque cover–possibly a post-it note–will shield the genitalia on the front and back sides of the magazine. These are small, necessary steps that ensure the publication complies with Chicago municipal codes and that all people involved have their privacy respected. But the steps that occurred to reach those decisions were unprofessional and highlight flaws in ORCSA’s review process for student publications.

During eighth week, Vita editors submitted the magazine’s content to ORCSA as part of the magazine’s regular review process. The publication’s adviser expressed worry over some graphic content, as well as release-waivers that had yet to be signed. The adviser passed it along to University administrators for further review. From that point on, students who had been intimately involved in the production of the magazine were cut off from its review process. Administrators from the Office of Campus and Student Life and ORCSA would not answer general questions from Vita’s staff, and repeatedly declined to comment to the Maroon.

Rather than being engaged in the review process, senior editors expressed concern that they weren’t allowed to defend their case to the examining administrators. The lack of transparency led to rumors throughout the RSO that administrators were reviewing the legality of the publication, which quickly turned to suspicions of University censorship. Although administrators decided over the weekend that the magazine will be allowed to run all of the delayed content spring quarter, most writers and editors were never informed how or why the decision was made. Had ORCSA made a greater effort to address concerns more directly with Vita’s editors and writers, the situation would not have become such a controversy.

Campus publications, at their hearts, are collections of student voices and viewpoints. If the University makes the decision to step in with the publishing process, all students involved in the organization should be adequately informed. Instead, during Vita’s review process, ORCSA communicated only with the publication’s “primary contact,” its executive editor, while other Vita affiliates who made an effort to be included in discussions were turned away. However, the executive editor isn’t the only student involved in the publication’s production, and therefore shouldn’t be the only one included in its review process. The publication as a whole should be able to defend its decisions before the University administrators that decide what can and cannot be published.

It goes without saying that ORCSA supports student organizations. Their main intentions behind reviews and advising are defending RSOs from any legal issues that may arise and looking out for the best interests of students involved. But even a well-intended review process can go astray when the requirements for a publication are not made explicit to its staff. As long as student publications are subject to review, the review process should be codified and transparent. As it stands, ORCSA’s review process doesn’t make the cut.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Editor-in-Chief-Elect, and the Viewpoints Editors.

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