In July, the Oxford American was involved in a scandal involving Editor Marc Smirnoff and Managing Editor and Art Editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald, who were fired after an internal investigation.
The investigation revealed that Smirnoff gave alcohol to minors and touched and photographed feet on campus. Interns at the magazine also said the two were involved in sexual harassment towards interns.
Smirnoff said he and Fitzgerald will fight the firings, but the last thing UCA needs is another ongoing scandal under its belt.
UCA should sever ties with the Oxford American as soon as possible. When the Oxford American moved to UCA in 2004, it was thought the magazine would be a prestigious and profitable addition to the UCA campus.
The recent revelations into behavior by the top employees at the magazine have negated any prestige the magazine offered.
Smirnoff admitted that he gave alcohol to interns who were minors and that he touched and photographed feet. Behavior like this is not behavior that UCA needs to be associated with. Giving alcohol to minors is a crime, which means Smirnoff should automatically be fired, but a professional touching and photographing feet is something Smirnoff should have left off campus.
The Oxford American has also proven itself a bad investment that UCA needs to get rid of simply to save money. Since 2004, the Oxford American has borrowed $700,000 from UCA in addition to the $50,000 UCA gives the magazine every year. Despite this, the magazine is still $860,000 in debt, according to an IRS audit.
UCA has only recently become financially successful itself and doesn’t need an indebted magazine to become the university’s next money pit, especially if that magazine doesn’t live up to professional standards that are expected of all employees on campus.
The Oxford American has become an expensive liability to the improvement of UCA’s image. UCA has struggled in recent years with several different scandals, but has mostly moved past them. Since the Oxford American is not an actual part of UCA, it is not worth hurting the university’s image for a magazine whose editors are unable to control their behavior around interns.
UCA President Tom Courtway has taken the first step by saying the contract with the Oxford American will be rethought. Courtway should use this opportunity to kick the magazine off campus. The Oxford American has leeched off UCA since 2004 and UCA has little to show for it. What clout the magazine had in regards to its prestige has since been ruined by the inappropriate behavior of the staff toward its interns.
If the personal lives of the staff stayed personal, the Oxford American might have moved past this, but because Smirnoff and Fitzgerald chose to continue to fight the firings, UCA needs to cut its losses with the magazine.
Even though the magazine promised to pay back the debt, it also promised to give a quarter of its profits to UCA. This did not happen because the magazine has never been profitable as long as it has been at UCA.
The magazine has a good intent with an important goal in supporting Southern arts, but this does not mean the university should pour money into it without anything tangible in return for the efforts.
The Oxford American should find another home at a university more willing to put up with inappropriate behavior from its professionals. UCA should no longer be that university and Courtway should make that clear to the magazine.