The pressure on York Vision has grown over the weekend after its controversial invitation to students to “send nudes” via its latest print edition was picked up by several national newspapers.
The extraordinary back page, which invited students at the University of York to send explicit images of themselves to the newspaper for judging, has been reported by The Times, the Metro and the Sun after first being reported by student journalists for rival student media groups.
Several commentators have pointed out the potential criminal implications of the student newspaper coming into possession of explicit content without policies in place for the appropriate handling of such data.
The decision to include the advertisement for explicit content is believed to have been made by a handful of members of the editorial team two weeks ago, when the edition was originally due to have been printed. The Yorker understands that the majority of members of York Vision’s elected team only became aware of the outrageous back page when they picked up their own printed copies on Friday afternoon.
Since York Vision’s by-election earlier this month, the majority of the newspaper’s team, some of whom are getting involved in student media for the first time, are yet to receive official training in media law from University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) staff.
On Twitter, students asked how the Students’ Union could approve a printed advertisement in a student newspaper for nude pictures of the campus population.
this isn't funny. This is exploitative and wrong. Genuinely cannot believe that this was a) allowed and b) you're supporting encouraging people being able post nudes that can be "anonymously rated"
— Fuck The Tab (@dvoradikal) October 19, 2018
@yorkunisu I've been lead to believe that this has been signed off on by my student union. Has nobody thought of the consequences? Surely this can do more to damage the reputation of the university than anything The Lemon Press can do?
— Harry Clay (@MightNotBeHboss) October 19, 2018
Sources within York Vision provide contradictory accounts of whether the edition was put before members of YUSU staff for the required staff inspection before it went to print. However, the Sabbatical Officers of the Students’ Union maintain that the controversial student newspaper “has been published without appropriate sign off” and the Union seeks “to establish exactly what has happened as a matter of urgency.”
According to the YUSU Media Charter, all ratified student print media must be seen and approved by the YUSU President or an appropriate appointed member of staff before it goes to print, primarily in order to prevent the publication of content that may be provoke legal challenge against the Students’ Union.
If any content that is deemed to be of legal risk is discovered after an edition is printed, the Media Charter awards the Students’ Union the right to withdraw all print copies from circulation immediately.
Within a few hours of York Vision’s distribution across campus, the editions had been collected and stored in an undisclosed location by order of YUSU staff.
Though no members of York Vision’s editorial team wished to be quoted directly, The Yorker understands that many within the team are extremely concerned about the negative social and reputational consequences, both for themselves as individual students, some of whom will soon be seeking employment after finishing their university studies, and the newspaper, that have arisen as a result of a misguided decision by a few team members.
The new edition’s controversial back page follows another infamous back page from an earlier print edition of York Vision, which attacked the “predictable” election of “white cisgender college chair” James Durcan to the Presidency of the Students’ Union.
In response to York Vision, the Sabbatical Team of the Students’ Union made a rare joint statement in public on student media, writing on the YUSU website that the new printed edition was “not in keeping with the journalistic standards of York student media or YUSU’s values and commitment to creating an inclusive environment for our students.”
Following the online furore over York Vision‘s back page, a YUSU Twitter account posted a congratulatory message for the student satire magazine The Lemon Press. In a Tweet featuring an image of an old back page published by the magazine, ‘YUSU Societies’ praised The Lemon Press and “their always creative, playful and waxy back covers.”
The Tweet, pictured above, has since been deleted.
When The Yorker asked James Durcan whether Finn Judge, formerly Editor of Nouse, would have a conflict of interest in his role as Activities Officer when it came to interacting with York’s student media, the President replied that he “[has] not held any position within Nouse since entering office and would be expected to declare any conflict as relevant.”
The Lemon Press has posted scathing criticism of the new edition of York Vision. In an article for the magazine’s website, Myles Dunnett, co-Editor of the publication, asked, “are the editors perverts? Have they just found a way to ask for nudes, under the guise of irony or stupidity? Have they never heard of the internet?”
Elsewhere, fellow Editor of The Lemon Press Henry Dyer made comparisons between the future of York Vision and the final edition of the News of the World.
— Henry Dyer (@Direthoughts) October 19, 2018
Yesterday, an open letter to York Vision demanding its de-ratification circulated on the Internet, attracting numerous signatures from members of campus media, both ratified and independent.
Notable signatories include the current Editors of The Yorker, Nouse, The Lemon Press and The Looking Glass Anthology; Amelia Hubbard, the former Editor-in-Chief of York Vision who attempted to deratify the newspaper through a submission to the YUSU policy process; the Women’s and Disabled Students’ Officers of the Students’ Union; Connor Drake, one of the Working Class & Social Mobility Officers; Jan de Boer, a Nouse contributor who has previously argued for the continuation and improvement of York Vision; and Tom Davies, a graduate and former York Vision columnist.
York Vision is yet to offer a public statement responding to the controversy their back page has caused, save for a comment offered to Nouse. The Yorker understands that this comment should not have been issued without prior YUSU approval.
York Vision has endured major financial and personnel difficulties in recent years. Several planned print editions were delayed or failed to materialise between 2016 and 2018. An unexpected bill for the usage rights of an image printed in a print edition years ago also put strain on the newspaper’s finances.
One edition this year, hailed as York Vision’s comeback since last printing in May 2017, received numerous negative reactions from current students, members of student media and alumni of the newspaper itself. Shortly after this, the then-Editor-in-Chief, Amelia Hubbard, wrote in a resignation statement that the newspaper was beyond saving.
Over the summer, York Vision’s Managing Director, Josh Mackenzie, was under pressure to resign from one of his roles in a student organisation, the other being Policy Coordinator of YUSU. The suspension of the YUSU policy process at the end of the 2017/2018 academic year led to a vote of no confidence levelled against the then-YUSU President, Alex Urquhart.
Over summer it emerged that the student who submitted a letter, requesting a vote of no confidence against Mackenzie, was themselves formerly the Managing Director of York Vision.
Though York Vision has endured financial difficulties, the paper has not been subject to YUSU financial sanctions, as erroneously reported by The Tab.
One student and contributor to The Lemon Press, whose Tweets were embedded in The Tab’s report, has since adopted new names for his Twitter account including ‘F*** the Tab’ and ‘The Tab: Where Good Journalism Goes to Die’.
The Yorker has approached York Vision and the University of York Students’ Union for comment.
This article previously stated that the ‘YUSU Societies’ Twitter account was managed by Activities Officer Finn Judge. This is incorrect and the error has been removed.