In response to its loss of official recognition last spring, The Mad Cow, a campus humor magazine, intends on going forward with plans to hold a vote of no confidence in College Council (CC). The vote could be held as soon as Sept. 26.
The Mad Cow drew heavy criticism last May when it published the article “College Council Adds ‘Black Guy’ Position.” The spoof suggested the ?black guy’ could have 3/5ths of a vote in Council.
“The actions that College Council took were unacceptable across the board,” said Josh Ain ’03, editor of The Mad Cow. “Regardless of what was said in the magazine, taking away the funding based on the offensiveness is really a violation of freedom of speech.”
However, Sarah Barger ’02, CC co-president, said, “The truth is there are a lot of people on this campus who feel uncomfortable. When that fear is brought out by a publication that is funded by [CC] money, then that is just too much.”
Unlike many articles in the magazine, the story was printed under the pseudonym Hans Oji. “Hans Oji is an anagram of my name,” said Ain. “We chose to put it down with that name because I already had my name on that page of the magazine, and because the article was a group effort.”
The magazine also printed a page of “departmental pickup lines.” The listing for African-American Studies was “Want me to be your master?”
“We are a humor magazine,” said Ain. “As such we are primarily dedicated to being funny ? not to being politically correct.”
Much of the campus, especially those in the minority community, who viewed themselves as targets, objected to the parodies and called on CC to take action.
“The issue that The Mad Cow raised was horribly offensive,” said Jason Lucas ’02, a member of the Black Student Union. “There were many ways they could have poked fun at the African-American Studies department ? professors have funny mannerisms, stuff like that ? slavery was definitely not appropriate.”
Following the initial outrage, CC held a discussion on the issues raised by The Mad Cow.
By the end of the heated, two-hour discussion, CC passed a resolution to revoke The Mad Cow’s recognition, effectively cutting off its funding.
According to Ain, however, The Mad Cow had been promised that no action would be taken during the meeting.
“We don’t have complete control over what’s done at the meetings,” Barger said. “I would really doubt that [The Mad Cow editors] would have been promised that.”
Christina Villegas ’04, MinCo representative to CC, defended the decision: “Along with The Mad Cow comes some strong negative feelings, especially because they had done similar things in the past. Council should put the Williams community first, and I believe that is what students expected.”
Jonathan Pahl ’02, CC treasurer, was one who initially voted in favor of revoking recognition.
“I was pretty impressed by the sentiments and concerns of certain individuals who felt inappropriately attacked, and especially some of the safety concerns raised,” Pahl said. “It became clear immediately afterwards, however, that we had not spent enough time on the issue…We began by trying to have a general discussion, but it led disastrously to action.”
As for the upcoming vote of no confidence, Barger is not overly concerned: “Josh Ain is doing something. That doesn’t bother us. We want people to do things. Two-thirds of the students would have to vote in favor of dissolving College Council. I think it would be hard to mobilize that type of anger against us.”
Regardless of what happens this year, The Mad Cow will be publishing. According to Ain, “We’ve had offers from numerous outside organizations to fund us. Perhaps it’s best if a campus that parodies college issues is kept separate from college control.”
As for the college administration, it is staying uninvolved. “I see this as an issue of student self-governance,” said Nancy Roseman, dean of the College.
The controversy over The Mad Cow has, according to some, served a valuable purpose in bringing many underlying issues on campus to the forefront.
“There’s a lot of discussion that needs to take place on campus. Issues between the majority white campus and the 25 percent minority campus,” said Lucas.
In addition, CC is considering a number of changes in the way it runs itself. According to Barger, one of the biggest concerns is the hostile environment that existed in the Council meeting on The Mad Cow.
“We’re going to change the nature of meetings,” said Barger. “We’ll have people with concerns come at the beginning of CC meetings. When that’s over we’re going to have a Council time, when outsiders can’t speak.”
Steps could also be put in place to prevent decisions from being made in the heat of the moment.
“We’re going to encourage that a decision is automatically tabled for a week between discussion and any voting,” said Barger.
Although the controversy continues, many in the college community are now ready to move on. “I really can’t say that taking The Mad Cow’s funding was the best decision,” said Lucas. “I’m an advocate for discussion. I would really like to see steps taken so that we can address issues that bring out strong emotions as a community.”