California literary magazine staff still upset by administrators' mandated

CALIFORNIA — Administrators at Chaffey College are still insisting the school’s literary magazine staff affix a warning label to it’s latest issue, but have allowed staff to use their own wording, a compromise of sorts that has left staff members frustrated.

On Wednesday, administrators said the Chaffey Review staff could come up with their own wording for a removable sticker to place on the second order of magazines, adviser Michelle Dowd said.

The first round of magazines that were printed were taken off the school bookstore’s shelves and labeled with a large warning sticker by administrators last month. The students had no say in the situation, Chaffey Review Senior Editor Melissa Lewis said.

The magazines from the second order have been covered in shrink-wrap, with a new sticker on the outside. It reads, “This volume contains content that may be unsuitable for some viewers.”

The magazine’s art director, Shakisaha Harvey, said she feels the staff still had no choice in putting the sticker on the magazine despite it being an infringement of their First Amendment rights. They proposed a compromise of a bookmark or mailer-style insert after the initial labeling incident, but administrators continued to call for a sticker, she said.

“It was no compromise,” Harvey said. “We were pretty much forced into doing what it was they wanted us to do.”

California’s community college free expression law gives students the sole right to determine the content of their publications.

Peggy Cartwright, the school’s director of marketing and public relations, said the wording on the original sticker was approved by the college’s legal counsel, who “recommended that there be a cover letter or some note placed on the book.”

Harvey said she felt the staff had to follow the directive to put a sticker on this second round of magazines if they wanted to sell them. They are hosting a release party on Saturday.

“I feel if we didn’t do that, we would have no book to present to anyone,” Harvey said.

Lewis said she feels like the battle isn’t over, but is at a “stalemate.”

There has still not been a real conversation between her staff and administrators, Lewis said Thursday.

“They’re still not talking to us,” Lewis said. “We invited them to. We said we would be glad to discuss the nature of literary journals in general and art journals.”

Henry Shannon, the college’s superintendent/president, could not be reached for comment.

Lewis said she plans to contact other news organizations and spread the story of what happened to the Chaffey Review.

In the meantime, she said her staff is compiling pieces for the magazine’s next volume, and they aren’t self-censoring in the process.

“I’m not going to let this whole issue stop us from doing what we do,” Lewis said.