Wolf in sheep’s clothing
Although its process wasn’t ideal, Council made the right decision to deny The Black Sheep CIO status
Cropping up in various University locations this semester, The Black Sheep publication attempted to fill in a previously unexplored niche. Its bawdy content came packaged in traditional journalistic garb that may have confused its readership, pulling the wool over the eyes of those expecting a traditional student newspaper. Now it appears the product will disappear on Grounds as suddenly as it had arrived. A series of decisions made by the Dean of Students and Student Council will effectively disallow The Black Sheep to distribute on Grounds. Though this may come as unwelcome news for the publication’s supporters, the administration should be lauded for upholding its policy. Council also came to the right decision, but did so in an unsatisfactory manner.
The Black Sheep is a national, for-profit corporation headquartered in Chicago. Originally started at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the group now offers publications catered to specific campuses. An iteration for the University was developed this summer and put into print in the fall. The local staff is largely composed of University students and features content that is both original and nationally syndicated.
The first warning arrived when an assistant dean in the Dean of Students office informed The Black Sheep it was in violation of University policy. The solicitation clause in the University Record prevents for-profit organizations from distributing material on Grounds. The Black Sheep was notified that it would be able to issue its product on Grounds if it were to become a contracted independent organization (CIO).
So The Black Sheep headed to Council. It presented its case to the meeting of representatives that was held Tuesday. The Black Sheep was denied CIO status in a 6-5 vote with eight abstentions. Given the high number of abstaining votes, Council should have tabled the proposal until the matter was better clarified.
If Council had given the matter more thought, it would have come to the same conclusion: The Black Sheep poses a fundamental threat to non-profit student media groups on Grounds such as The Cavalier Daily, The Declaration and WUVA. The Black Sheep, because it is a national publication, could attract national advertising more easily and also attract more sources of revenue to offer financial incentive for staff members. Furthermore, allowing for-profit organizations such as The Black Sheep on Grounds — as a CIO or otherwise — could allow a wave of for-profit groups to come and crowd out existent student media. For-profit media do not fulfill the vital function that non-profit student media do because they aim to serve corporate owners rather than the community.