COSO proposes new publication policies

by Charlotte Bednar | 5/7/98 5:00am

The Council on Student Organizations proposed a restrictive set of guidelines for College-funded student publications at a COSO meeting yesterday with student editors, but the committee will not decide on any policy changes for several weeks.

The proposed changes include requiring all COSO publications to adhere to federal obscenity standards and to place warning labels on publications containing adult material.

Associate Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy, who chairs COSO, said student publications and organizations receiving funds from COSO were presented with a draft of ideas, which she said make current standards "more modern and more comprehensive."

Kennedy said the meeting was intended to "affirm the freedom of the student press at Dartmouth to determine its own content," but, she added, "the right to print comes with responsibility."

The proposal states that all content in student publications must have bylines, no articles may be written anonymously, all parodies must be clearly marked as such and all federal obscenity standards must be followed, Kennedy said. If content may violate federal standards, then the publication's editors should consult the Legal Affairs Office.

In addition, COSO suggested editors print an advisory on publications with "adult material," but Kennedy said COSO will not see any of the material in student publications before distribution.

Another proposed policy requires student publications receiving funds from COSO to "create their own set of standards" and a statement of purpose, Kennedy said.

She said about 70 people attended yesterday's meeting and COSO listened to members of student publications discuss their opinions on the proposals.

Kytja Weir '98, a member of the Uncommon Threads collective, said the proposed changes are in the best interest of student publications, but added it will be difficult to apply these general policies to specific publications.

Weir also said some members of Uncommon Threads, a quarterly gender-issues publication, are concerned about how the proposed standards could be used and interpreted down the line.

In particular, Weir said members are concerned about the proposal for student publications to set standards for content before going into effect. The proposal was unclear and left Uncommon Threads members wondering if funding would be cut off if content guidelines were not met, she said.

Censorship issues involving Uncommon Threads were raised at the end of Fall term by The Beacon and The Dartmouth Review after the publication printed a graphic short story about a teenager's first lesbian experience.

COSO asked for responses by e-mail after the meeting, and the Uncommon Threads members will probably send COSO responses to specific proposals, Weir said.

She said Uncommon Threads would like to see different wording of some of the proposals and would like to "continue a dialogue with COSO."

Weir said she would have liked to see more communications between COSO and the affected student publications before yesterday's meeting.

Dan Powell '00, editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine, said many of the proposed guidelines are very reasonable.

But Powell said the Jack-O disagreed with the proposal that COSO-funded publications with adult material print a warning on the cover.

Powell said this proposal would label publications "from the outset" and would be a disservice to authors publishing in these magazines. He said the proposal would also be impossible to enforce.

Powell said the Jack-O editors also have problems with the proposal that all articles have bylines.

Some of the Jack-O's articles are written by eight or nine people in a meeting, Powell said, and listing all of the authors would be "ridiculous."

"COSO will go back to the drawing board and once they come out with a new draft of policies, we'll take a look and go from there," he said.

The Jack-O-Lantern came under fire Fall term when it printed a feature titled "Eskimo Pick Up Lines" and a satire of The Dartmouth Review that contained racial slurs.

The publications will meet and send COSO more comments for consideration over the next few weeks.

COSO will "adjust accordingly" and will hopefully make a decision by their meeting on May 20, Kennedy said.

While student organizations and publications are encouraged to give COSO input, only COSO members, which include 16 to 20 students, faculty members and a representative from the dean's office, will vote on the final standards.

Kennedy said publication standards were raised because they had not been changed for several years.