Oberlin Blogs

Starting from Scratch

July 18, 2008

Alice Ollstein ’10

Because summer jobs rarely give you the freedom to express your full creative potential, my friends and I have decided to use our free time this summer to start an underground magazine. Written by undergraduates for undergraduates, the magazine would give my artsy-fartsy social circle a chance to write, draw, and photograph to their hearts' content. We decided to name the magazine "underLAnd," a combo of wonderland, undergrad, underground, and L.A.

Each step of the process has been difficult, and whether we're trying to solicit submissions or plan a fundraiser party, I constantly annoy my fellow editors with a sigh of "If only we were at Oberlin!"

See, starting your own publication at Oberlin is a piece of cake. Throwing up a few flyers in Wilder (the student union) and King (the main humanities and social science building) gets you an inbox full of submissions, it's easy to find tons of students versed in layout and editing, and for fundraising, you can float from co-op to co-op to plead your case at Money Night, apply for a college grant, or throw a party with a live student band.

The co-ops have budgets above and beyond what they spend on food, and once a week the co-op members vote on what to fund. Students come for all sorts of reasons -- from funding the OCircus to bringing an exciting speaker to campus -- and it's up to each and every co-op member to decide by consensus vote what project deserves the big bucks. I've benefitted from this system twice, for my Winter Term solidarity trip to Nicaragua and my wetland restoration spring break trip to New Orleans, and both times I was surprised how easy it was to visit each co-op, snack on some delicious home-cooked eats, make a short speech, and rake in the dough. Some co-ops are stingier than others, but in general, it's a great way to make your plans possible.

Out in the real world, it's a different story. We managed to eke out exactly one advertisement from a community business, but most of our funds for the first issue are coming from a big dinner party that we threw last week for all our friends. We barbecued under the stars and yours truly whipped up some gourmet desserts and managed to scrape together enough to print 100 copies. I wanted to have live music at the party, but none of us editors were hip enough to have a friend in a local band. At Oberlin, I'd have about five different student bands to choose from, ranging from funk to jazz to techno to rock to classical. The David Bowie Cover Band is a particular campus favorite.

Basically, if you always wanted to start your own magazine/theater troupe/non-profit, Oberlin is the place to do it. If you build enough experience, maybe the trials and tribulations of the real world won't seem so scary.

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