UNI students breathe new life into Brownstone Journal
By Eric McHenry
In lowercase, the prefix "uni-" means "one." Capitalized, the letters are an acronym meaning "many." The natural and physical sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities all converge in The University Professors program at Boston University, which makes it an appropriate home for the Brownstone Journal.
Published in cooperation with UNI, the student-edited journal is an annual collection of undergraduate scholarly work from all corners of the University. Diversity is the impetus, says editor-in-chief Charlotte Presler (UNI'99), and excellence the criterion.
"Eclecticism is precisely what attracted me to the journal," Presler says. "It has the potential to involve undergraduate students in a genuine intellectual community and to stimulate intellectual discussion."
"We've sought contributions from as many departments as possible," adds former editor Jenna Silber (UNI'98). "The current issue [Spring 1998] includes a paper from a physics student, as well as a visual art gallery with reproductions of oil paintings. Our idea has been to incorporate everything."
That's in keeping with the Brownstone's history. Created in 1983 by students who wished to "expand the monologue of classroom learning to a dialogue between students," the journal has always been an open venue. "Learning is shared," the founding editors wrote in the preface to an early issue, "and to the extent that it is shared, it is effective."
Silber cited that passage in her own preface two years ago when she revived the journal, which had ceased publication in 1991. As a curious sophomore, she had been intrigued by back issues she'd found in the UNI lounge.
"I wondered why they'd stopped producing it," she says. "I thought it was a really good idea. I've always wanted to know what people are writing about in other parts of the University. And I think it's important for students to have experience publishing their own work. It instills good habits: getting something ready to show to people, having to stand behind it."
And stand behind it they must. Administrative and faculty oversight of the journal is extremely limited. One professor generally provides some advisory input, but issues of the Brownstone are entirely student-written, student-edited, and student-produced.
"I can't say that I do very much for them," says UNI Associate Professor Rosanna Warren, the only nonstudent in the journal's masthead. "I chat with them once in a while. I give them ideas from my own editing experience. In the past I've looked over submissions. But the current editorial crew seems so efficient and responsible that I just leave it to them."
Warren adds that the journal's editors do significant legwork without the incentive of academic credit.
"It's entirely a labor of love," she says, "and it's a lot of labor. Students handle every portion of the journal's production. They save money. They meet with artists and work on design. They think about publicity. They organize performances and social events to promote it. These students have encountered most aspects of modern publishing and editorial work."
To help ensure the journal's continuing vitality, Silber and Presler have tried to build a roster of editors and coordinators that represents all undergraduate classes. In the interest of good editorial judgment, they've also w