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Well done, UVA

Alumni magazines are house organs, by and large, and nothing presents a challenge for editors and writers like the house in an uproar. Last June, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia (apparently UVA’s version of a board of trustees) peremptorily fired university president Theresa Sullivan. (Technically, Sullivan resigned, but not because she wanted to.) Within days, pretty much everyone in the university community—faculty, staff, students, alumni—rose in revolt sufficient to force the board to reverse itself and reinstate Sullivan. As institutional messes go, this one does not rank with Penn State’s child sexual abuse scandal, but still it generated a lot of news coverage of the sort no university wants.

Many of us wondered what The University of Virginia Magazine would do with the story. The answer came with the magazine’s fall issue: Virginia did the right thing. The magazine devoted its entire feature well to “17 Days in June: From Resignation to Reinstatement,” and thoroughly reported what had ensued with integrity as well as laudable thoroughness, candor, and neutrality.

In 36 pages, Virginia recounted  the events of June 10 to June 29 (OK, a day or two more than 17, but I think the editors were counting the days from Sullian’s resignation to the board’s reinstatement of her.) The magazine published a sampling of the protest signs, a photo spread of the turmoil, a page of analysis of the school’s financial situation (which played a role in the aborted dismissal of the president), a think piece on what public universities are struggling to cope with these days by former Chronicle of Higher Education staffer Elyse Ashburn, and an octet of essays by faculty members, the executive vice president and provost, a student, and an alum. (The Penn Stater and Virginia may now have established a spectrum of essays as the editorial method for dealing with big institutional controversies.) The magazine also gave the principal antagonists in this story, President Sullivan and Helen Dragas, rector of the board, two pages each for their statements; Sullivan penned a two-page perspective and Dragas submitted to a Q&A.

Like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and other similar periodicals, Virginia takes a sober, earnest approach to making a magazine. So there’s not much here that conveys the emotional heat of those troubling days on the UVA campus. But that’s a quibble. I think the top of Virginia‘s masthead—Robert Viccellio, Sierra Bellows, and Molly Minturn—deserve credit for the magazine they put out.

Now you know (second of a series)

Things I know now because I read alumni magazines:

– In a University of Minnesota study, pasting pictures of vegetables in the compartments of school cafeteria lunch trays resulted in twice as many kids eating green beans. Consumption of carrots tripled. Oh, and astronauts on prolonged space flights lose weight in part because they just don’t eat enough while in orbit. (From “Serving Up Good News About Food,” Greg Breining, Reach from the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts)

– Title IX, the piece of legislation that forced colleges and universities to provide equal access to intercollegiate sports for men and women, is composed of 37 words. “Sports,” “athletics,” and “women” are not among them. (From “In the Wake of Title IX,” Melissa Ludtke, Wellesley)

– Beloit College holds an annual theme party called Bizarro Beloit, in which students dress up as another Beloit person of their choosing. Me, I’d come dressed as one of those squirrels, but I bet it’s been done. (From “Incomplete Glossary of Beloitisms,” Beloit College Magazine)

– There is such a thing as a vegan doughnut. Apparently, that means they are made without benefit of eggs or milk, in this case by Dun-Well Doughnuts, founded by a couple of Ithaca College grads. The New York Daily News says Dun-Well makes the best doughnuts in New York City, and co-founder Dan Dunbar says it took he and his partner a while to perfect the recipe. When he dropped their first try at workable dough into the deep fryer, it sank to the bottom and did not pop to the surface for 40 minutes. I bet that one was good. (From “A Business Made from Scratch,” Robin Roger, IC View)

Comic Wars: Revenge of the Yoe

What have I started? No sooner did I make note of The University of Chicago Magazine‘s telling a story through comic graphics, then I heard from Richard Anderson at Occidental about his magazine’s comic feature. Now the esteemed Mary Ruth Yoe has countered with an “oh yeah? well we did it in 2000″ riposte.

OK, the gauntlet has been thrown. Can anybody beat 2000?

From Chicago April 2000, “Nice Guys Finish First.” Now, does anyone want to claim that they were way ahead of  Beloit in the use of squirrels in campus videos?

And speaking of video, though it’s not really one of my keener interests (and UMagazinology tends to concentrate on print), I’d like to hear from editors pointing me toward fine examples of video magazine content. I don’t mean your school’s thank you video or homecoming videos or recruiting videos. I mean video that augments content in your print magazine. You know where to find me.

ComicCon, alumni magazine edition

On Monday, I lauded The University of Chicago Magazine for presenting a feature story in comic form. Richard Anderson, editor of Occidental, got in touch to alert me to something I’d missed from its Spring 2012 issue—the history of Occidental’s founding, told in a six-page comic written by Anderson and drawn by Roman Muradov. Complete with talking squirrels. You can’t beat talking squirrels.

Occidental should get together with the people at Beloit College, who seem to have a squirrel thing, too. (Click both words.) They could stage SquirrelFest.

Remember, it was my idea.

How could you miss me unless I went away?

I know, I know, long time no post. As you may have noticed, UMagazinology went on an unplanned hiatus while Blogmaster D poured his limited attention span into his day job at Johns Hopkins Magazine and then traipsed up to Newfoundland for a vacation. Also, there was a bit of pondering whether the blog would continue. But I am back from vacation and fresh from a meeting in which management expressed enthusiasm for the blog’s continuation, so UMagazinology will resume regularly sporadic publication any day now. Glad to be back. More to come.