'Orbis' editor seeks audience for self-described liberal publication
by Jessica Howard
Editor-in-chief Michael O'Malley and his colleagues at the new, student-run newspaper Orbis are working to bring liberal ideas and minority viewpoints together in print. The 20 or so students who serve as staff members to Orbis are learning the complexities of desktop publishing on the fly, and doing whatever it takes to get their message out. For instance, the Sept. 19 debut of the self-funded newspaper was distributed by hand, as no racks were available for them to use. Orbis is slated to publish eight more issues during this academic year. Last week, O'Malley spoke to the Register about the need for, and creation of, Orbis.
Q: Your mission statement says that Orbis inspires to change the atmosphere on Vanderbilt campus. How would you describe the atmosphere at Vanderbilt?
A: Conservative, white, very rich. Everyone talks about the "Vander-bubble," how we are all secluded from the rest of the world, and I absolutely feel that way. We want to extend outside of Vanderbilt to the local Nashville area, and the nation and all around the world.
Q: In the letter from the editors, you stated that the publication seeks to "create a comfortable forum for topics often overlooked." Specifically, what issues do you think are most overlooked on campus? What will the Orbis to do to make these issues more comfortable to approach?
A: We want to especially with the groups that are supporting us such as Lambda deal with gay rights and the tolerance of homosexuality. I think that people should get an understanding and become exposed to more things other that what they are used to. We are trying to get [the Black Student Alliance] to support us, and issues that deal with racism. Another good part of Orbis is the culture section, which has highlights of people. It is trying to break down stereotypes.
Q: Your inaugural issue focused on diversity. What's your definition of diversity?
A: This has been a major source of controversy. I am not Orbis; it is made up of a bunch of different people, so just because I have one definition of diversity doesn't mean that Orbis has a definition of diversity. I think that people make good points when they say it doesn't really matter what color your skin is or what your background is, that it is more your ideas and beliefs. I think that is very true. I think that diversity incorporates all types of things, like different beliefs and backgrounds and skin color and cultures.
Q: What do you think the University can do to become more diverse?
A: I think they should provide things for our student body to help get different types of people here. I know that they are building a new Jewish center near Branscomb. I think that will help make Jewish people feel more comfortable coming here. If you feel like you're the only one, you're pretty much not going to Vanderbilt if you don't want to be excluded. ... There is an article [in the Sept. 19 issue of Orbis] about Lambda getting an office. [This] exemplifies that the University is supporting diversity and supporting different cultures and lifestyles. And I think that if students see that, they would be more prone to come to the University.
Q: When was it decided that a publication like Orbis needed to exist at Vanderbilt?
A: It was last semester, actually, and Andrew Harris [Class of 2001] came up with the idea. He proposed it to different student organizations and I heard about it through a mutual friend. Four people got together - Andrew Harris, Jay Prather, Megan Lynch and myself and we tried to decide what it should be.
Q: What kind of involvement does the Vanderbilt administration have in Orbis?
A: Very little. They are not giving us any funding. We are doing all of this ourselves through advertising and donations. They will give us Web space, which we are trying to set up now. Chris Carroll (Vanderbilt Student Communications adviser) is being a help.
Q: Do you have a year of probation?
A: It is like a probation year, and [VSC] watches us to see that we have enough support on campus and that we are actually serious about doing it. After a year of publishing, I hope they will vote to start giving us funding to help pay for [Orbis].
Q: Describe an Orbis reader.
A: I think it is everyone. It is designed not only for the people who are within the multi-cultural groups, but also to teach people about different cultures and different lifestyles. I think that is really important, especially here.
Q: Do you feel young people are starting to have a greater sense of awareness to things that are going on, particularly in light of the Sept. 11 attacks?
A: In response to the attacks, I think that people understand that we need to be aware of different types of culture. I agree it will become more necessary.
Q: What are some of the issues you plan to cover this year?
A: Our next issue, we are going to focus on violence versus non-violence. We've always been talking about different social issues, like the death penalty and abortion. For a while, we were talking about Bush's presidency, but I don't think that is appropriate right now. And Meghan Lynch (associate editor) brought up the idea of "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," as a central theme.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A: I just want people to give Orbis a chance. It kind of bothered me when I heard that that one person wouldn't even look at it because he heard it was liberal.
For more information about Orbis, or to request a copy, call 421-2976.