In The Varsity’s first issue of Volume 138, we looked into the independence of campus publications, mainly focusing on newspapers. Here, we examine the role of governance in editorial autonomy — and the ways in which form restricts content at more niche campus publications.
Acta Victoriana, the literary journal of Victoria University, operates through a levy that comes directly from the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC). There is a certain amount of money Acta receives that can only be changed through a vote among Victoria University students. VUSAC also has no influence over the makeup of Acta’s masthead or the types of content published in the literary journal.
“The amount of funding we receive doesn’t need VUSAC’s approval in any way. So, financially, we’re fairly autonomous,” said Carl Christian Abrahamsen, one of the Editors-in-Chief of Acta. “[But] sometimes freedom can actually be a difficulty.”
The journal’s editorial autonomy does not come without difficulties of its own. Since VUSAC does not oversee Acta’s masthead, the journal has been subject to bouts of internal mismanagement.
Acta is an example of ways governance can affect the structure and efficiency of campus publications. While editorial autonomy allows for creative freedom, it also leaves publications entirely in the control of their executives.
Maintaining editorial autonomy through funding
Juxtaposition, a non-profit and global health magazine based at U of T, receives its funding from sponsors, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), grants, and occasionally colleges and departments.
In order to not be beholden to one type of sponsor and face problems with funding demands or dependency, Juxtaposition tries to diversify its funding sources.
“The sources of financial support also do not impact the content we publish, our values and mission, or how we choose to decide on topics for events,” Simran Dhunna, last year’s co-Editor-in-Chief, wrote in an email to The Varsity.
“Speaking for myself and during my tenure, I haven’t felt censored or restricted from publishing certain content,” Dhunna wrote. “We have quite a bit of freedom to publish different types of content, especially that which deviates from traditional biomedical perspectives on health.”
Dhunna wrote that as long as writers and editors approach content critically, use evidence, and employ culturally considerate language, then “everything is fair game.”
The U of T chapter of online magazine Her Campus is a UTSU-recognized student group. Because of this, it depends entirely on the UTSU to pay for events and any physical materials it uses.
“We didn’t receive too much last year, but I think that has to do with our ‘club category’ or ‘club level,’ so that impacted what we had to do for events, specifically where we had to do outreach for to make ends meet in terms of catering, venue, etc.,” Veronika Potylitsina, Co-Editor-In-Chief and Campus Correspondent of U of T’s chapter of Her Campus, wrote to The Varsity.
According to Potylitsina, the structure, governance, and financing of each Her Campus chapter is decided by the Campus Correspondents. U of T’s chapter has not been censored by the university, but other chapters have been under certain conditions that dictate their content be conservative or un-opinionated.
“We have a lot of freedom in terms of what we can publish,” wrote Potylitsina.
The freedom and constraints of form
Campus publications are also beholden to their physical — or digital — forms, which can dictate what kind of content is produced and when it is published.
Juxtaposition mainly publishes online, which allows articles on current events to be quickly published and helps Juxtaposition reach a wider audience beyond just U of T.
“Our content naturally diversifies, and has the space to be more creative, because we are less restricted by the typical logistical challenges of print publishing,” wrote Dhunna. “It also allows readers to engage with content more dynamically, through sharing our articles in their own networks/platforms and commenting on articles directly.”
Dhunna also notes that publishing online allows Juxtaposition to monitor its statistics and report those numbers to sponsors.
Juxtaposition publishes one print magazine per year, which, according to Dhunna, “demands a different level of creativity.”
“So while online publishing is an article-by-article process that is more fast-paced, print publishing positively challenges us to think about our content in a more structurally creative way,” Dhunna wrote. “There are trade-offs for both with regards to readership, content and design.”
As an online magazine, the U of T chapter of Her Campus also has freedom to quickly publish articles and reach U of T students across all three campuses.
“We have members from all three campuses and from a variety of studies, and I think the convenience of communicating and operating mostly online is what draws people to join our publication,” wrote Potylitsina. “That being said, it’s very easy to feel disconnected on a team that does most if not all of their communication online.”
Disclosure: Sophia Savva is an Editor for the U of T chapter of Her Campus.