For Vanderbilt students, the divisions of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc. serve as laboratory, classroom, and professional experience in the absence of an academic journalism or broadcasting department. Hundreds of undergraduate, graduate and professional students are involved each year as regular staff members or contributors. Each year the divisions of Vanderbilt student media distribute thousands of student-produced stories, air thousands of hours of music, news, sports, interviews and entertainment on radio and television, stream information and audio to the world via numerous Internet sites, and cover hundreds of hours of campus activities in service to the University community audience. One could argue that no other student activity on this or any other campus has the capability to regularly reach, positively impact, and serve a greater percentage of the University population than the student media organizations.
The divisions continue to successfully increase the size of their staffs, strive to reflect the diversity of the campus population, and devote attention to developing future student leaders. Many Vanderbilt graduates who participated in VSC have found that the skills and experience gained working with student media led to careers in commercial communications. Many alumni are working in newspapers, magazines, and other media related jobs ranging from USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, BuzzFeed, Facebook to ComedyCentral while others have gone on to work in broadcasting from local radio to ESPN, NPR, CBS and CNN.
The information included on this site is offered as an overview of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc. It is hoped this information will reflect that the contributions and accomplishments of VSC, Inc. warrant a genuine sense of pride for Vanderbilt University.
Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc. exists to provide the students and other members of the Vanderbilt community specific services and outcomes, primarily, (1) the provision of an environment that fosters the development of students’ skills in leadership, management, human relations, and fiscal responsibility in a unique cocurricular setting that allows for high levels of participation in daily-run, product-oriented organizations; (2) the provision of realistic opportunities for students to learn and gain competency in specialized mass communications skills ranging from writing, editing, computer-aided design and production, advertising creation, sales and accounting, to television and radio production, program conception, and on-air participation; and (3) the provision to the campus community of print and broadcast media serving as forums for free expression, allowing the exchange of ideas, dissemination of news, outlets for creative work, and vehicles for entertainment, fulfilling a role critically essential to the health of a vibrant university in a democratic society.
Student media at Vanderbilt University have a history that is as rich and nearly as old as the University itself. While the first student publications debuted in the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that attempts were made to organize the groups.
Earliest accounts indicate that there was discussion of a Publications Board as early as the fall of 1915, when those persons who advocated a Student Council were collecting information about student governments at other colleges and universities and learned that many campuses had established Publications Boards. In 1916, a committee composed of Professors Luck, Brown, Harris and Chancellor Kirkland submitted a plan to the faculty which was in turn recommended to the Student Council and approved by that body in the spring of 1917. It was not until the winter of 1919 that the body really began to function effectively.1
The Publications Board, charged with the general oversight and supervision of college publications, operated with a membership of faculty and student representatives. The Publications Board remained relatively unchanged until 1953, when Chancellor Branscomb ratified a new constitution for the group. The new constitution differed from the original Publications Board primarily in the composition of the Board, and it provided greater detail as to the Board’s duties.
During the 1960s, the Vanderbilt campus mirrored the turbulent political and social times found in U.S. society at large, thought the unrest and political activism was somewhat less prominent than what was happening at many other of the nation’s college campuses. Also during this time, The Vanderbilt Hustler may have reached its zenith in terms of general defiance and calls for reform.
“The Board of Trust preferred to let administrators handle such touchy issues as gay rights but could not at times restrain it’s distaste for the Hustler. Small indiscretions worried the board even before 1967. By then, the Hustler carried on a running battle of ridicule and political hyperbole with the Banner, and subsequently (alumnus, publisher, and VU Board member) James Stahlman frequently led the board in its criticism.”2
As a potential solution to both the University’s increasing concern for liability brought by the boundry-pushing student media, and student journalists’ desire for greater autonomy to protect them from real or perceived threats to expression, a proposal was extended to incorporate the Publications Board. In September 1967, faculty members Vereen Bell, Paul Elledge, David Nunnally, James Worley, and Robin Fuller filed a charter of incorporation with the state of Tennessee.
“The corporation, Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc., was formed for the purpose of the operation, publication and dissemination of student communication media at Vanderbilt University, including but not limited to The Vanderbilt Hustler, The Commodore, Spectrum, Prometheus, The Dirty We’Jun, Masquerader and radio station WRVU.”3 The corporation was certified on Sept. 22, 1967.
On recommendation of the Chancellor, the Executive Committee approved the incorporation of the Student Publications Board under the title of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Incorporated. The Senior Vice-Chancellor said the Publications Board had been operating under a constitution and by-laws adopted in 1952. University counsel, concerned that Vanderbilt might find itself liable to suit, has advised incorporation. The new by-laws of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Incorporated, were also approved by the Executive Committee.4
1 Personal memo from Sidney Boutwell to Chancellor Alexander Heard, Feb. 16, 1976.
2 Paul K. Conkin, Gone with the Ivy: A Biography of Vanderbilt University (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1985)
3 State of Tennessee, Charter of Incorporation, Vol. O-26, p. 2626 General Welfare, Tennessee Secretary of State, 1967.
4 Executive Committee, Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, Vol. 54, p. 153, June 25, 1968.