Students fight censorship with cash

OREGON – After their principal censored two stories\nin the literary magazine, students at Crescent Valley High School\nin Corvallis raised enough money to publish it on their own.

“We have the moral and professional responsibility to\nmaintain the integrity of the publication by fighting censorship,”\nsaid Brian Collins, layout and production editor for the magazine,\nexplaining why he and other staff members decided to publish the\nliterary magazine independently.

The students raised more than $800, including $550 in direct\ndonations and $300 from a fund-raising concert, to publish a magazine\ncontaining the two censored stories: “Friends Like These,”\na short, profanity-filled play about a night in the life of three\nhigh school students, and “Red,” a story with a graphic\ndepiction of sexual abuse. They also received a $300 paper upgrade\nfrom Kinko’s.

Collins, who will be a senior in the fall, said the profanity\nin “Friends Like These” was necessary “to protect\nthe verisimilitude of the piece, as it is a satire about teenagers.”\n

“The pieces, especially ‘Red,’ are important for teenagers\nto read,” he added.

But Assistant Principal Gerry Kosanovic said the decision to\ncensor the stories was simply a matter of district policy, citing\nregulations barring profanity in schools and requiring material\nto be age-appropriate.

The funds the students raised allowed them to publish 305 copies\nof Not Variations, a modification of the name of the original,\nschool-sponsored literary magazine, Variations.

The students decided to only publish the uncensored version\nof the magazine, although Collins said school administrators tried\nto force them to publish a censored version of the magazine as\nwell.

But Collins said the magazine’s staff convinced all of the\nstudents who submitted works to the magazine to sign a form withdrawing\ntheir submissions from Variations.

Collins said the administration’s response was one of disappointment\nbecause the Variations tradition had been broken.

“They’re very disappointed, but I don’t feel too bad about\nthat,” Collins said. “I don’t see them as having a right\nto be upset about it. We as students are under no obligation to\nwork under that kind of environment.”

Kosanovic acknowledged the students’ right to publish the magazine\non their own.

“They responded in a really appropriate manner,”\nKosanovic said. “I’m proud of them.”

Kosanovic called the magazine staff a “highly motivated,\npowerful group of students.”

“They’ll remember this a long time after they leave this\nschool,” he said.

Collins said almost all of the copies of the literary magazine\nhave been sold. He attributed the success of the magazine–he\nsaid this year’s press run was the largest ever–to the media’s\ninterest in their story.

“The media coverage has been phenomenal,” he said.\n

Articles in the local newspaper were picked up by The Associated\nPress and published in The Oregonian, one of the largest\nnewspapers in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, a television\nstation in Portland ran a story on the students’ efforts.

The students are selling copies of Not Variations in\narea bookstores and in front of their school. The base price of\neach magazine is $4, but some bookstores are selling them for\nmore than that. Collins said it costs $6 to print each book, but\nthe cost is subsidized by the funds the magazine staff has raised.

“Our goal is to break even, not make a profit,” Collins\nsaid. “We want to make good art accessible to the community.”\n