WISCONSIN — A student publication out of the Universityof Wisconsin at Eau Claire that garnered attention last year following theprinting of a controversial column has been spared from the funding choppingblock.
The Flip Side, a self-described “Free Speech paper,” came under fire last April when regular contributor Jake Everett penned anarticle titled “Sexual Depravity,” which included commentary onwomen’s sexual boundaries. Everett concluded his piece by addressing womenwho would take offense to his viewpoints: “I probably wouldn’t want tofuck you anyway. Well….unless you’re unconscious.”
In addition to inciting outrage among some of the Flip Side‘sreadership, Everett’s article also got the attention of the UW-Eau ClaireEnglish Department, which was then acting as the publication’sdepartmental home.
In the fall semester of last year, English Department Chair Jack Bushnellreleased a statement announcing the department’s unanimous vote to severties with the Flip Side. Bushnell cited the “interests of fosteringthe responsible use of free speech and the mutually respectful communityenvisioned by the University’s Centennial Plan” in hisreasoning.
“They take serious issue with our willingness to print controversialspeech,” Flip Side Editor-in-Chief Sara Adams said of the UW-EauClaire English Department. “[They] did not believe that overarchingconcerns about free speech, or the voices of the numerous poets whose work weprint, was reason enough to continue backing us.”
Following the severance, Adams was informed by university administrationthat without a departmental home at the university, the magazine’s fundingwould be limited to $750 per semester in accordance with Student Senate FinanceCommission By-laws. Currently, the magazine’s budget is nearly ten timesthat limit.
As of Monday, the Flip Side has a new departmental home — UW-Eau Claire University Centers — and according to Mike Rindo, executivedirector of university communications at UW-Eau Claire, the magazine now meetsall requirements to be eligible for full funding.
While relieved to have side-stepped the funding cut, Adams takes issue withwhat she construed as attempted censorship by the university.
“The University is selectively interpreting the by-laws because theywant us to stop printing, because they object to our willingness to let everyonespeak their mind,” Adams said. “While we do print content thatoffends some, we don’t seek those ideas out above others. I am very proud of thehugely diverse range of viewpoints we print. In fact, in the issue whichcontained Jake’s article, we also printed a feminist article, an article by aconservative Christian, and a poem about a chicken flying away.”
At Adams’ request, attorneys from the Student Press Law Center andthe American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin wrote to express concern that the university was tying themagazine’s funding to disapproval of its editors’ choice ofcontent.
Rindo, however, maintains that the Flip Side‘s editorialcontent is simply not a factor in the current funding issue.
While acknowledging disagreement over the clarity of the Student Senateby-laws, Rindo said any funding decisions would be based solely on whether ornot the Flip Side met specific Student Senate requirements.
“This is a practice that has been in place for a considerable amountof time,” Rindo said. “All other campus media comply with thoseregulations. The Flip Side is being treated exactly thesame.”
Now in line with those regulations stipulated by the Student Senate, theFlip Side is looking forward to receiving full funding for their next 14issues, which will be published in the same open-forum format the magazine isknown for.
“We’re so relieved that it seems to be over,” Adams said.”I think the University still definitely has problems with selectivelyreading their funding guidelines, but for the moment we’re just happy our paperwill still be around.”