Controversial literary magazine dodges potential funding cut

WISCONSIN -- A student publication out of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire that garnered attention last year following the printing of a controversial column has been spared from the funding chopping block.

The Flip Side, a self-described "Free Speech paper," came under fire last April when regular contributor Jake Everett penned an article titled "Sexual Depravity," which included commentary on women's sexual boundaries. Everett concluded his piece by addressing women who would take offense to his viewpoints: "I probably wouldn't want to fuck you anyway. Well....unless you're unconscious."

In addition to inciting outrage among some of the Flip Side's readership, Everett's article also got the attention of the UW-Eau Claire English Department, which was then acting as the publication's departmental home.

In the fall semester of last year, English Department Chair Jack Bushnell released a statement announcing the department's unanimous vote to sever ties with the Flip Side. Bushnell cited the "interests of fostering the responsible use of free speech and the mutually respectful community envisioned by the University's Centennial Plan" in his reasoning.

"They take serious issue with our willingness to print controversial speech," Flip Side Editor-in-Chief Sara Adams said of the UW-Eau Claire English Department. "[They] did not believe that overarching concerns about free speech, or the voices of the numerous poets whose work we print, was reason enough to continue backing us."

Following the severance, Adams was informed by university administration that without a departmental home at the university, the magazine's funding would be limited to $750 per semester in accordance with Student Senate Finance Commission By-laws. Currently, the magazine's budget is nearly ten times that limit.

As of Monday, the Flip Side has a new departmental home -- UW-Eau Claire University Centers -- and according to Mike Rindo, executive director of university communications at UW-Eau Claire, the magazine now meets all requirements to be eligible for full funding.

While relieved to have side-stepped the funding cut, Adams takes issue with what she construed as attempted censorship by the university.

"The University is selectively interpreting the by-laws because they want us to stop printing, because they object to our willingness to let everyone speak their mind," Adams said. "While we do print content that offends some, we don't seek those ideas out above others. I am very proud of the hugely diverse range of viewpoints we print. In fact, in the issue which contained Jake's article, we also printed a feminist article, an article by a conservative Christian, and a poem about a chicken flying away."

At Adams' request, attorneys from the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin wrote to express concern that the university was tying the magazine's funding to disapproval of its editors' choice of content.

Rindo, however, maintains that the Flip Side's editorial content is simply not a factor in the current funding issue.

While acknowledging disagreement over the clarity of the Student Senate by-laws, Rindo said any funding decisions would be based solely on whether or not the Flip Side met specific Student Senate requirements.

"This is a practice that has been in place for a considerable amount of time," Rindo said. "All other campus media comply with those regulations. The Flip Side is being treated exactly the same."

Now in line with those regulations stipulated by the Student Senate, the Flip Side is looking forward to receiving full funding for their next 14 issues, which will be published in the same open-forum format the magazine is known for.

"We're so relieved that it seems to be over," Adams said. "I think the University still definitely has problems with selectively reading their funding guidelines, but for the moment we're just happy our paper will still be around."

Flip Side, news, University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, Wisconsin