Officials are hammering out the details of a draft agreement between The University of Central Arkansas and The Oxford American Literary Project over the future of the Oxford American — the prestigious literary magazine supported in part by the university.
That memorandum of understanding will go to the Board of Trustees for approval Friday.
President Tom Courtway said during the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday either the magazine will remain “married” to UCA or the two will “divorce.”
“There are no hang ups,” UCA spokesman Jeff Pitchford said Wednesday. “We’re just making sure everyone’s on the same page.”
Magazine Publisher Warwick Sabin said Wednesday that UCA and OA officials are working on a couple of “details” in the most-recent agreement. He would not elaborate.
Officials at UCA decided to revisit the relationship between the magazine and the university after founder and editor Marc Smirnoff and managing and art editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald were fired over allegations of sexual harassment this past July. The university investigated sexual harassment claims in the magazine’s campus offices and made recommendations for improving work conditions in August.
The financially troubled magazine moved to Arkansas in 2002 and then moved under UCA in 2004, when the first agreement was signed. The agreement was extended in 2007, but it expired in 2010, according to UCA documents. A new one was never drafted.
The recent proposed changes to the magazine are in line with the original agreement between UCA and the magazine, Sabin said.
“We don’t anticipate any problems fulfilling our responsibilities,” Sabin said.
In the draft memorandum, UCA remains a financial supporter of the magazine — giving $50,000 plus offices to the magazine yearly — but the magazine would offer new incentives to UCA. The magazine would agree to two full-page ads approved by UCA in each issue, to keep at least two unpaid UCA inters each academic year and to create an “editorial board” where UCA faculty gets two seats.
The editorial board would be a “high-level advisory board” similar to what other magazines have, Sabin said.
The OA should “make a reasonable effort to ensure that the OA’s relationship with UCA remains a visible part of its identity without implying that it is a localized, campus organization,” according to the agreement. That relationship includes working with faculty on “mutual projects or endeavors,” according to the document.
The magazine’s publisher would also work with the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication to chose UCA interns.
UCA or the magazine can terminate the five-year agreement at the end of each fiscal year with a 90 day notice, according to the draft agreement.
Under the new agreement, the magazine would also agree to pay back the $690,000 the university loaned it when sufficient “net cash flow exists from operations of the OA.” Both expect to pay off half the debt in five years from the official agreement, according to the memorandum. The magazine pledged previously to pay off about half its debt in five years.
The magazine has never been in a position to repay its debt to UCA, Courtway said previously.
Despite a $154,993 profit for the 2010 year, the magazine was $860,382 in the red overall, according Internal Revenue Service documents. OA is slowly improving year to year, but the magazine is still in debt, documents show.