By Jonathan Singer and Andrew Fraley
Across the state from Stony Brook University, there exists another publication that is not afraid to print words like “fuck” and “shit” in its pages. But now Generation, a student magazine at the University at Buffalo with a 25-year tradition of alternative journalism, has lost its freedom.
On April 3, Sub Board I, Inc., a non-profit conglomeration of UB student governments and publisher of Generation, notified current Editor-in-Chief Andrew Blake that it had suspended the magazine’s charter. “They couldn’t censor our content, so they took away the rulebook that gave us that power,” said Blake, a UB senior.
Calling editorial autonomy “a huge responsibility,” Sub Board Vice President Robert Pape says that the magazine’s charter will be restored under the new leadership of UB student journalist Joshua Boston.
Outside of his claim that the magazine has declined in quality over recent years, Boston has no previous ties to Generation. Much like the rivalry between The Stony Brook Press and The Statesman, UB’s student media scene has its own competition. There are three publications: The Spectrum, a tri-weekly newspaper; Visions, a magazine published by UB’s undergraduate Student Association; and Generation, which more recently has featured the phrase “An SBI Publication” on its cover, alongside “the student voice since 1984.”
Before the magazine had become Generation in 1984, it had been known as The Current. Andrew Galarneau, who had been Generation’s faculty advisor for nine years up until this semester, recalled the publication’s transformation. “What’s going on with the magazine now is the same thing that happened with The Current in 1984,” explained Galarneau. Sub Board had cut the magazine’s funding after an argument with the editorial board at the time. After that, Generation was born, and Galarneau was one of its original staffers.
While Galarneau wasn’t Faculty Advisor when Sub Board suspended the charter, he had been the advisor last semester when “the forest fire was lit and while it raged”. Galarneau claimed he’d spent hours last semester explaining to Blake the damages his editorial board was doing to the magazine’s viability. Most notable, Galarneau said, were two photos appearing in different issues; one was a back cover which featured Blake vomiting on an issue of Visions magazine, and another featured Blake holding a used condom—both were parodies of photos that appeared in Visions. “The magazine is not intended for him to carry on his personal feuds,” said Galarneau.
“The people from the Student Association thought it was hilarious,” claimed Blake, referring to the condom parody photo. Galarneau was the only person to express concern about either photo, according to Blake.
When Sub Board suspended their charter and hired Boston for the new position this semester, Galarneau was not surprised. “Unfortunately, it was right to fear that this could happen.” Boston officially begins on June 1.
The upcoming Editor-in-Chief’s qualifications as a journalist include time as Managing Editor of both The Spectrum and Visions. “He does have journalism experience, but he has nothing to do with Generation,” Blake said. Normally, Generation’s editorial board chooses the next year’s Editor-in-Chief. After the charter was suspended, that process was the job of a five-person search committee, which included Pape and Generation Associate Editor Michelle Matthews.
“This process was about picking the most qualified candidate,” Pape said. One of Sub Board’s goals was to open up the Editor-in-Chief hiring process, in hopes of lessening intimidation. After the committee chose Boston, the new Editor-in-Chief called Generation a “niche publication.” “We fill the niche of a couple of people who are not scared to tell the truth,” Blake said in response.
Lauren Ministero was one of three current Generation editors who applied for next year’s Editor-in-Chief position after the magazine’s charter was suspended. “I was still interested because I did put a lot in the magazine,” she said. In front of the committee, Ministero explained what she wanted to do with the magazine and what ethics meant to her. “They also talked about the audience I wanted to attract,” she said.
Two main issues in this argument regard ethics and Generation’s audience. On Andrew Blake, Boston said, “He crossed a lot of ethical boundaries, in my eyes.” When asked to give examples of offensive content, Boston regarded the material as inappropriate to reprint.
It is that flippant material, most notably a section of explicit personal ads and an ongoing question and answer feature called “I’m Right. You’re Wrong.” that landed the magazine in hot water. Both of these sections feature content that is generated anonymously by Generation’s readership.
“A lot of people do read the magazine just for the personals,” Blake said. When he became Editor-in-Chief one year ago, Sub Board invited Blake to a board of directors meeting, where the magazine’s publishers presented concerns of both the board members and the students. They told him that they were not too happy about that back section. “I’m not going to lie—it was kind of creepy. A real closed doors, hush-hush kind of thing, you know?” Blake described in an editorial from the April 17 issue of Generation.
The then Editor-in-Chief presented the idea of removing personals from the pages of Generation to the magazine’s staff. “I told the editorial board and they all agreed absolutely not,” Blake said.
The January 27 issue of Generation featured a notably controversial “I’m Right. You’re Wrong.” in which a reader asked, “Why does David L. Dunn, the V.P. for Health Sciences who initiated UBreathe Free, have a small penis?”(UBreathe Free is a campus-wide anti-smoking initiative.) Blake and Matthews responded in an irreverent manner, following the column’s format.
Upon request from Sub Board, Blake and his editorial board printed a correction. An earlier request was made after the September 16 issue, regarding an article about campus safety. The feature mentioned incorrect information about UB’s Anti-Rape Task Force, a service that is offered by Sub Board. “Other than that, there were no formal complaints,” he said.
“The cover story is always a feature story,” Blake said. The April 1, 2008 issue of Generation featured an article titled “Did You Get Your Slice,” a cover story exposing how UB’s Student Association was misappropriating its money. The scandal regarded a number of SA officials who misused funds on personal trips for themselves and friends. “Not once did Visions, the SA magazine and the organization’s chief link to the public, publish a word about the head jobs going up for grabs. They certainly didn’t mention the $12,000 salary, reimbursements for cell phones, or the $2.7 million dollar budget that comes with the job,” said the article, which was written by 2006-07 Editor-in-Chief Peter Scheck, with additional reporting by Blake and 2007-08 Editor-in-Chief Tara Sullivan.
“Nothing against Josh, but it’s sad to see a magazine that’s been student-run for 25 years be taken away at a whim,” Scheck said. “You’ve got to say something when you want to take someone’s charter away.”
Both Boston and Pape echo each other’s argument about ethics in journalism. “It seems that a lot of the things that Josh is saying is coming from their mouths,” said Ministero. Upon the Sub Board’s hiring decision, the April 29 issue of The Spectrum reported that Boston and Pape are housemates. While the newspaper identified this as a possible bias, Pape dismisses any accusations as false. “Josh as a journalist is a very talented kid,” he said. “Josh earned this on his merit.”
Although things were not as normal as they could have been, Generation’s editorial board chose an Editor-in-Chief before the committee interviewed the applicants. It was not Ministero, but Photo Editor Roger Chao who ended up the preferred candidate. Boston will start his term on June 1. “As of now I’m leaning towards not working with him,” Chao said. Neither is Blake, who said he might stay at UB an extra year. “Most people from the magazine won’t be there anymore,” Blake said.
“If you see that that many people are unhappy, then something has got to be wrong,” Ministero said. In a recent email Boston sent out to UB’s visual studies listserv, he referred to the publication as “Sub Board magazine.” “I have no idea what he wants to do,” Blake said. “There’s a bunch of rumors that they’re going to change the name.”
Boston admitted that this might be the case, explaining a stigma he saw associated with the Generation name. “In the end, it’s going to be a better publication,” Boston said. Generation is also known for its literary and “Pulse” sections of fiction and art reviews, respectively. While Boston said he has little interest in the literary pages, he still wants to keep it in the magazine, along with some version of the “Pulse” section.
As far as personals, many of which disparage upper-middle class female Jewish Long Islanders attending UB, Boston said they might not be there in upcoming issues of the magazine, which is published weekly during the academic year. “Advertisers don’t want to advertise in a magazine like that,” Boston said.
“This year they ran a story on moustaches,” Boston said. “That was a cover story.” That feature, written by Blake, titled “’Stache Of Cash,” was about Western New Yorkers who grew facial hair for charity, and was published in the March 3 issue of Generation. “I find it hard to believe that a story about college kids raising money for cancer research is bad,” Blake said.
Blake also responded to Boston’s repeated attacks on his ethical structure: “I’d like to see why he thinks that,” he said. “I practically sleep with my copy of the AP Stylebook.” Blake considered several places to look for legal assistance, including UB student legal services and the New York Civil Liberties Union, but the student legal service that UB offers is an entity run by Sub Board, and he hasn’t heard back from the civil libertarians.
“Andrew and others would want you to believe that Sub Board is ‘the man,’” Pape said. The Vice President pointed out that Sub Board is run by students, and offers services that UB’s administration doesn’t provide, including Generation’s editorial autonomy outside of times the magazine can be sued for libel.
After the April 1 Student Association cover story, Boston said the Generation reporters used skewed quotes of SA officials. “That’s false,” said Blake. “No one from SA for the past 15 months has brought allegations.” Being funded in part by UB’s student activity fee, Boston called Generation’s contents an irresponsible use of student’s funds.
Thus, the game of “I’m Right. You’re Wrong.” continues with Generation’s editors versus Pape and Boston. Blake said that Boston “couldn’t cut it as a Spectrum editor,” referring to Boston’s failed run for The Spectrum’s Editor-in-Chief position before he moved to Visions. Boston also applied for the position of Editor-in-Chief of Visisons at the same time, but was hired for Generation first. With regards to the SA magazine, Blake called that publication a “propaganda machine” for UB’s Student Association.
There are also conflicting reports on Sub Board’s communication with Blake, and his reception. Blake asserts that he’s only been invited to two board of directors meetings; the first at the beginning of the fall semester and the next was before they announced the suspension. He had missed that meeting, but only because prior notice hadn’t been given in advance. There were also optional sub-committee meetings that conflicted with Blake’s class schedule.
It was this lack of communication that Galarneau believed ultimately led to the decision. “A problem with a guy who won’t get back to you when they [Sub Board] want to talk to you is worse than printing the word ‘fuck’,” he said. Blake insisted that the miscommunication was all Sub Board’s part. “Most people don’t know what’s going on here,” he said. “Even people at the magazine don’t know what’s going on. Sub Board’s been very hush-hush about this.”
Blake has been with Generation since 2004, working under Editors-in-Chief Morgan Grant (2004-2005) and Chris Ahearn (2005-2006), years that Boston called “the old glory days of Generation”. However, even those issues featured personals and “I’m Right. You’re Wrong.” columns.
Pape said that Sub Board’s board of directors unanimously approved the hiring of Boston. The magazine, in whatever new form it takes, will now be run by students who are a little more “straight-laced,” according to Galarneau. “The good news is that it will still be a student funded magazine.”
Scheck remains optimistic about the situation, giving it five years before the magazine is returned to its former glory. “This a setback, not huge, and we will get it back,” he said. “We have a tradition of coming out against the odds.”