Wednesday, March 15, 2006

In The Halls of Higer [sic] Ed ...

Maybe it was a vain attempt to relive my university days, or maybe it was a vain attempt to relive my university days. Either way, I recently found myself with the student publications Catalyst, from RMIT and Farrago, from Melbourne University.
As everyone knows, university student publications are well known for their astounding creative capacity to use the word 'fuck' in many and varied contexts; for their amazing ability to offend groups in Australia that you'd never heard of, much less suspected had existed; and for their unerring instinct for missing deadlines.

How did Farrago and Catalyst live up to the standards of previous publications? I decided to score them on a number of criteria.

If there's one thing that student publications are known for, it's their ability to mispell words, misplace apostrophes, and generally miscommunicate.

Neither publication failed to disappoint. Page 61 of Farrago has a column on the 'blogsphere' (members of the actual blogosphere would be surprised at this) which gives a faulty blog address for popular blog (they give the address as, and mispell 'Pseudonymous kid', the name which the bitchphd blogger gives her child (their spelling is Psydenoymous Kid).
In page 50, the author of an article dealing with the Cronulla riots tries to use a swear word, but simply makes a fool of herself: 'bullocks'!
There is an even more blatant example of misediting on page 6, where an article on logging protests ends thusly:

The Central Highlands, particularly the Marysville area, is one of the last havens of the Leadbeaters possum: just 2,000 remain.elesent augiamcor ing elessis augait do dipisim in ut irillam acidunt ad min essed magna feugait laorem zzrit.


It's as if their printing press had been possessed by the spirit of Julius Caesar: either that, or they just put that in there to help with formatting, and forgot to take it out.

There are also numerous miseditings in Catalyst, including blatant misuse of the enter key on page 3, three times again on page 6, and a similar misuse of the 'justify' function on page 7. (I've noticed this happen time and time again in student publications: when you combine thin columns with text which has been spaced far apart, the results can be devastating.)
Misuse of the enter key again occurs on page 28 (the recipes page) where it's not entirely clear, on first reading, how many tablespoons of cheddar cheese we're supposed to use in the casserole recipe. (We'll get back to the recipes later, by the way.)
Catalyst scores double points for the hilarious mispelling in a title on page 19:


7 points (added points for the pile up of errors in the blogging article, and their little 'latin' moment on page 6)

7 points (added points for the pile up of errors on page 6, and the blatant mispelling in the title on page 19).

No student publication would be the same without the use of jargon which would be indistinguishable outside university.

Several academicisms appear in Farrago, including the rather attractive term 'Vice-Chancellorial', and (on page 13) the almost meaningless sentence, "Sedition used to be a relatively latent concept in Australian law."
Double points for the use of the term 'Bourgeoius construct of romantic love' on page 8. All I can say is, when it comes to architecture, I prefer bourgeoius constructs to socialist constructs anyday; but when it comes to the use of outdated communist jargon, I'm yours, baby!
Catalyst is disappointingly lucid. The term 'bourgeoius construct' doesn't appear once! However, the term 'bicylism' - appearing on page 15 - is verging on the academic.

4 points (added points for the term 'bourgeoius construct)

1 point. They must improve on this performance in future editions.

One of the main purposes of student publications is to publish whatever propaganda is submitted to them by the fanatics on campus. This propaganda can range from Young Liberal articles on the Howard Government to Communist Party of Australia articles advocating revolution.

Several examples in Farrago are worthy of note:

Page 18:
"2005 was an eventful year. We saw the biggest student demonstrations in about a decade against Howard's attacks on student unions. We saw millions of workers and students on the streets against the Liberals attempts to degrade workplace rights. Opposition to the war on Iraq remained steady, about 66% of people think we should never have gone to the war in the first place, and that troops should immediately be withdrawn.
So in 2006 we will have to work pretty hard to top the inspirational successes of 2005."

Some success. The troops remain in Iraq, and Howard's industrial relations and VSU legislation have both been passed through the senate.

Page 20:

"Heya Women! Jan and Khandis here , your 2006 Wome*ns Department Officers... The Wom*ns Department exists to celebrate women's diversity, to challenge sexist, racist, classist, heterosexist, ableist assumptions and stereotypes about women, and to have some feministy fun."

I wasn't sure at first whether this 'Wom*ns Department' missive should be classed under mispellings and miseditings or under propaganda. Either way, it's terrible writing.

Page 50.

"The Cronulla riots were racist in the extreme - they were for more oppression of the already oppressed - whilst the Lebanese riots were an outcry against oppression."

Translation: 'All violence is inexcusable except for the violence that I excuse.'

Catalyst has some fine examples as well, including VSU and You, on page 6; About your Student Union, on page 8; and RMIT Queer Department, on page 17. These articles combined only scored two points, because two of them were written by the same guy, and used many of the same phrases.
A fine example of double-speak occurs in the 'VSU and You' article, where the author writes:

Dr Nelson, you are wrong. VSU is about choice. It is not about freedom.'

Freedom is not about choice? Has this guy been studying under Stalin?

On page 18:

Planetshakers City Church states that their objective is to make music and deliver training to "empower a generation ...

It's not everyday you see Christian propaganda in a student magazine. Double points for originality.

3 points.

5 points.

In Farrago, mention is made of the WAC - the 'Women's Action Committee' - which may or may not prove that all feminists are WACkos.
Catalyst gives us the even more entertaining Student Union Committee, or the SUC. It comes complete with a SUC president, a SUC representative and even a SUC Womyn's Officer.
Does she really SUC? I guess you'll just have to go along to meetings to find out ...

1 point.

1 point.

Closing Comments:
5 points have been deducted from Farrago's final score for several readable articles, and an amusing format (parodying an official 'administrative' document).
Catalyst receive a bonus point for the recipes on page 28 ( 'Cheesy Beans on toast'? Reminds me of my own student days.) However, 7 points have been deducted from their total for amusing editorials, a well-written article about the Melbourne fashion festival, and for the hilarious 'pointers' on page 27 for students moving in to a sharehouse for the first time:

- Misconception: You can live off beer and/or two minute noodles.
- Fact: Heard of scurvy? It's a disease that you get from not eating enough food that is rich in vitamins and I've heard it can be pretty nasty. If you notice yourself/housemates loking kind of yellow, maybe it's time for some vegies.

Final Verdict
10 points

7 points

Both show dangerous moments of lucidity, however, I'm sure with a few missed deadlines, more propaganda, the addition of badly designed pages (courtesy of a resident fine arts student) and bad student poetry, these publications have the potential to be as horrible as the best of them.

(Cross posted here.)


Caz said...

Sooooo, essentially you're suggesting that both journals missed the opportunity to lend any credence to a potential challenge to ableist assumptions that may have been lurking in the minds of their audience.

Intriguing Timmy; you’ve provided ample food for thought for all.

No scurvy for us this week, no siree!

TimT said...

Rereading over this post, I have no idea what I was saying.

I will say this, though. Catalyst made me grin at several points. I like the editors of that publication, they might do interesting things with it during the year (if they're not drowned out by the political obsessives).

Rachy said...

I saw a sticker like that on a table when I was on campus recently, my first thought was "well if you don't like it, fuckheads, freaking well leave"

Mark said...

ARRRRRGH! Facking unblievble thet a univarsity culd fack sumthing up so bad!

Or maybe not.....

TimT said...

Rachy, doncha love the political obsessives on campus?

Mark - to be fair, putting one of these publications together would be a terribly complicated job; they'd get work in different formats from different writers, and some of the writers would forget to submit, and then they'd have to change it all to PDF format (or something similar), and do any number of other things. I've done some volunteer work on publications in the past, and it can get very tough.

All of the student publications I've ever read have had this problem with spelling and basic editing, so it's not as if I want to single out these guys or anything.

As for the Marxoids who invariably write for these publications - I can't explain those ...

TimT said...


Aunty Marianne said...

Bless your heart, Tim.

You haven't seen anything until you've seen EU documentation typos translated into 15 languages, published and recalled in great embarrassment.

And that was before the last accession.

They once published a map without Belarus. It had turned into a vast inland lake. Many red faces that day, I can tell you.

TimT said...

Leave them to me. I speak fluent bureaucratese!

Email: timhtrain - at -

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