Student Literary Magazine under Investigation

DYSTOPIA–A routine administrative investigation into complaints about the operational procedures of Dystopia College’s literary magazine, Wingspan, has led to a police investigation of more serious allegations, according to campus police spokesperson Capt. Cranky Lawless.

The administrative investigation began after English and Foreign Languages Dept. Chair Donna B. Askenme received complaints that Wingspan staff members were making their editorial selections in “an unprofessional manner.”  Specifically, it was alleged that staff members gathered at local pub the Dead Albatross, read submissions aloud to uproarious laughter while getting very, very drunk, and then randomly choosing submission packets from mess on the table and floor.

Senior Rich Kidd, editor-in-chief, freely conceded that this description “sounds about right.”  He said that is always how editorial decisions have always been made at the magazine, and he saw no need to “fix what wasn’t broken” when he took over as editor.

Asst. Prof. of English Owen Hornblower said is the “nominal” advisor for the magazine, a role he accepted years ago because “no one else would do it,” says his time is too valuable to waste on student endeavors, and thus he hasn’t even entered the Wingspan office in “decades” and has “no fucking clue” what goes on in there.

The matter turned into a police investigation when drugs–“some pot, a couple of hits of acid, that sort of thing”– were discovered in the editorial office, Lawless said.He said investigators “did some digging” and discovered evidence suggesting that a “kind of mail-order pharmaceutical network” was operating out of the office.

It is a fairly common practice for literary publications that accept submissions by mail to ask submitters to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for notification of their selection and/or return of their rejected materials.  In the case of Wingspan, which accepts admissions only from the Dystopia College community, the process relies on campus mail rather than the Postal Service, so no stamps were needed, but the process was essentially the same.

Investigators are alleging that some submission packets also contained cash and “drug orders,” which were fulfilled using the submitters’ self-addressed envelopes.

Investigators have questioned Hornblower, Kidd, and other members of the editorial staff, but no arrests have been  made, and no charges have been filed.  Lawless said that, at this point, it remains unclear who actually handled the incoming and outgoing mail for the magazine and whether anyone else knew what was going on.

Kidd referred questions about his possible knowledge of the drug situation to his team of attorneys.

Askenme said the college will not be shutting Wingspan down, because it “provides an essential creative outlet for our students,” but that she expects it to become an online publication that accepts only electronic submissions.

As for the operational practices that sparked the original complaints, Askenme said she makes it a police not to interfere with the editorial practices of student publication, as long as they do not violate the law or directly endanger anyone, but she will suggest to the student editors that they might consider conducting their selection process “behind closed doors.”

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper



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