Review: The Student Review, Issue 1

By Trevor Antley.

Besides being an expert on relationships and social awesomeness, I also keep my ear to the ground about new happenings in the Provo, Utah area. And it happened just two days ago that my ear found outside my door the inaugural issue of a back-from-the-dead Student Review.

The Student Review was an independent Provo student newspaper established in 1986. Despite periodic popularity (and sometimes controversy), it was eventually discontinued only to be resurrected in the noble year of 2011. It’s self-described purpose is to provide “an independent forum for student thought” in Provo and at BYU. The paper lists its editorial staff as Tamarra Kemsley, Craig Mangum, and Hunter Schwarz, all three of whom, I believe, are current BYU students.

To sum up my impression of this first issue: the Student Review is comparable to that guy who only wears colored shirts to church. The paper seems to be eagerly trying to portray an “edgier” feel and to reach out to that colored-shirts crowd, something made obvious by the topics of articles and editorials in the first issue. Topics include: Mormons & Masons; BYU Women’s Services; “Confessions of an LDS sex therapist”; an interview with a Muslim BYU professor; and even a plug for the club/forum “Understanding Same-Gender Attraction.” If your brain is exploding from all the potential controversy, don’t feel bad. That’s why it took me two days to actually write a review.

This sort of colored-shirts-at-church attitude which oozes from the Student Review seems somewhat reminiscent of the Provo music scene where many Provo musicians struggle to portray an image that does not conform to traditional “Molly Mormon” and “Peter Priesthood” (have I ever mentioned I hate those terms and that they’re stupid generalizations of people? but I digress). And I’m guessing that the editors (whom I have never met and know nothing about) likely have some connection to that unique aspect of Provo culture, since the only adverts in the Student Review are for Provo’s Muse Music venue, and the published events calendar includes Muse’s as one of the few extra-BYU events listed.

Unfortunately, though, most of the Student Review‘s apparent edginess seems to be superficial. For example (and I admit this is a minor one), Sarah Smith’s article “Mormons & Masons” fails to even casually mention the very reason that the two groups’ relationship is controversial: the undeniable similarities between LDS temple and Masonic rituals. Although a provocative topic that immediately grabs readers’ attention, the article serves merely as a feel-good piece about how Masonry doesn’t conflict with Mormonism. Of all the attention-grabbing headlines in the Student Review‘s inaugural issue, I failed to find anything particularly controversial. Other articles were very interesting (such as the interview with Shereen) and the occasional blurbs were entertaining and sometimes poignant (really, why no Men’s Services at BYU?).

The lack of actual edginess is understandable and I don’t mean it as a real criticism, only a personal disappointment. Of course the Review doesn’t want to exclude the majority of more straight-laced BYU students, and in the ’80s and ’90s, the Student Review‘s controversial printings sometimes caused serious conflicts with BYU’s administration and caused problems for its editors and contributors. In this resurrected version of the Review, the editors (probably wisely) are going to great lengths to avoid butting heads with the BYU establishment, even complimenting their now-rival, the Daily Universe–although the Universe‘s editors and faculty at the BYU Communications department will likely notice the intended barb behind the title of the Review‘s opening piece describing the history of the Review: “Expand Your Universe.”

My only real criticism of this first issue is that if you’re going to make controversial headlines, put your money where your mouth is. If the paper survives for more than a semester, which considering the investment of its backers it will likely have to, then hopefully it will provide some candid and honest perspectives on items of interest to BYU students and Provo residents. I’m still waiting on that exposé of the BYU gay underground.

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