May 29, 2024

If I Told You Editor in Chief Spearheads Publication Council & Bylaws

Emma Feria 25'

Publications in Jenks. Photo Courtesy of Emma Feria

Outside of Bistro on February 23rd, Editor in Chief of If I Told You, Drake Sprowles ‘24, sat at the table among the other publication heads. The group included Editor in Chief of the Idiom Molly Forget ‘24, Co-Editor in Chief of Vox Populi Izzie Beaulieu ‘24, Gordon Review Editors Maisey Jefferson ‘24 and Gio Johnson ‘26, and If I Told You intern Jordan Walker ‘24 and Editor Gab Bolds ‘25, to discuss Gordon’s first publication council. Professor Tim Morgan, advisor of The Tartan and the Gordon Review, was also present, providing support along the way.  

“I could tell that there’s camaraderie between publications,” said Vox Populi Co-Editor in Chief Izzie Beaulieu ‘24. The process of writing the bylaws was new considering none of the current publications, including Vox Pop, had written bylaws before. This gave the publications an exercise in distinguishing themselves from one another in their founding mission, brand and messaging.  

This gave Beaulieu an opportunity to dig, stumbling an online Vox Pop blog from 2008. Learning about the history of Vox and how to build their own identity as a publication was a helpful part of the process, she found. “Preserving history is so important, and it’s interesting to see how Gordon students even 5 years ago were thinking, the culture on campus and how things were run…It helps us feel connected to other alums, the ways we do class, or love a certain professor,” or even how the student body responded during various social movements. The publication council seeks to create better record-keeping mechanisms and systematic transitions, from one leader to the next.  

The publication council was ratified on April 17th, but the bylaws will be finalized and passed on April 30th. The publication council includes The Tartan, the Idiom, Vox Populi, If I Told You and the Princemere, who were previously members of GCSA’s Executive Council. The Executive Council was formerly made up of the publications and other primary student organizations. Despite this membership, publications rights on campus were not formally defined and were determined by the administration’s favorability. There was also a lack of power within the council. Given Sprowles’s dual involvement as a senator and a publication head, Sprowles wanted to give the publication council more agency, and a place at the table when administration makes decisions about student press and free speech. 

Previously, If I Told You had bylaws to protect its confidentiality, but other publications did not. However, with the creation of the new Constitution and handbook under Thomas Franklin’s 2023-2024 student presidency, those sections were left for discussion for future leaders. The bylaws establish the rights and regulations from all levels, including the internal support of a council, the external support of the academic sphere and administrative support.  

The publication council gives the publications a home and a place for easy internal support, which will include monthly meetings following the council’s establishment. This will also look like coordinated action in terms of hiring, directing interested students towards publications that best suit their creative needs and outlets, and event planning. 

Some challenges to creating the publication council included accounting for various schedules and limited meeting time. However, Sprowles said it was “fairly easy to work with the publications” and that there has not been “much resistance to this idea.” According to Sprowles, Student Life and the faculty were also pleased with this move towards establishing a publication council, as greater publication involvement with academics has been a conversation for 4-5 years. Sprowles noted that students tend to operate in 3–4-month rush periods, while administration operates in 5-10, or even 15-year plans; these distinct timelines are “part of the business.” Coordinating meeting times with the administration was also difficult given how busy the administration is, which looked like several weeks of delay at times. Balancing the tedious process of writing the legislation and consolidating those of the other publications, along with Sprowles’ other commitments, was no easy feat.  

The publication council is intended to be a unifying force providing support for busy publication heads, many of whom take on more than their roles were intended to entail or assume the responsibilities of multiple roles. “The last thing we need is to be divided… we are all doing our best to serve the campus,” said Sprowles. Among a lack of student engagement, publications have also suffered from a lack of communication. Beaulieu shared that Vox Pop was not aware that their advisor had left until halfway through last semester. As a result, they had no budget, and they could not publish their Fall issue. They were also unaware that the Editor in Chief position was a paid role. However, they found a new advisor, figured out payment, and announced their upcoming release party on May 1st. 

Beyond involving publication heads and faculty advisors, involving administration was an important part of the process. This often involves aspects of compromise, but nothing that truly inhibits journalistic or mission integrity, remarked Sprowles, “if publications want true and genuine rights from admin, admin has to be involved in those conversations.” Walking the fine line between creating more structure for publications under greater administrative oversight while preserving the individual autonomy of publications is an ongoing “fruitful conversation.” In the past, student-admin relationships and publishing rights were largely navigated without legislation, but the bylaws will create more open communication while continuing to preserve publication autonomy.  

Involving administration is also critical to avoid outside complaints about publications from people beyond the campus community. The bylaws also allow for the publishing of content that may be breaches of the Gordon Life & Conduct statement, and guiding things in a way that publications are campus conversations. This is still a tightrope walking process with drawbacks that need to be considered. “When you start to publish for the world, you lose the mission of the local community,” said Sprowles. In other words, the target audience should remain in the immediate campus community, including faculty, staff and students. While this may feel limiting in scope at times, it is strengthening it. “The hope is no matter who someone is we can all be together in community, as publications are a guiding force of community and culture.”  

Given that the publication council is still in its infancy, next year will be an “interesting trial run” and hopefully “one that doesn’t stop” Sprowles added with a laugh. He said this may look “awkward at times,” especially in terms of faculty involvement, given that some faculty are currently spread thin or leaving. Ideally, the department chairs would be part of the publication council and would include one faculty member from the English Department and another from Communication Arts. The publication council can also create pathways toward internships. For instance, Jordan Walker, 24’, is currently an If I Told You intern in charge of running social media, where she crafts If I Told You’s brand and public persona. This can fulfill a need for more student internships on campus, allowing students to fulfill their internship requirements while alleviating publications’ staffing concerns. This is also a possibility that the Tartan has been looking into.  

Sprowles would also love for past and present publications to be involved in the classroom. For instance, Social Welfare Professor Sybil Coleman uses old If I Told You editions in the classroom to prompt student reflections on Social Work. “I have met some incredible writers at Gordon and can only hope those underclassmen who are talented or don’t know they are talented and are, allow themselves the grace and humility to submit for publication.” 

In terms of 3-5 years down the line, Sprowles hope to see the publications self-identify, as well as strong heads of the publications. He also hopes to see “vibrancy brought back to publications,” as many are still facing the effects of Covid in terms of lower student involvement. Greater vibrancy would look like fully staffed publications, far more applicants than open positions, and “publications that are safe and secure and sound.” 

“If a year from now Vox is still standing, I’ve succeeded in some way” Beaulieu shared, a sentiment echoed by many other publication leaders. Co-Editor in Chief Elizabeth Snowman 24’ and her are in interim, as the two graduate this year but are trying to set up new leaders for success and help build their skills. Having the publication council will help the next people who inherit the next leadership roles to not be “floundering.” She also shared that the past Editor in Chief of Vox, Ginny Vienneau ‘23, “taught us a lot but there’s still a ton of things that we had no idea and had to teach ourselves.” 

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