For student publications, what’s in a name?

When Eric Ward ’10 and Elisa Gonzalez ’11 decided to found an undergraduate magazine called The Yale (College) Book Review, The Yale Review asked them to rethink their name.

The two English majors wanted to revive an undergraduate book review called The Yale Review of Books, published from 2001 to 2004. But The Yale Review, the oldest quarterly literary magazine in the nation, took issue. Though Undergraduate Regulations require students to obtain permission to use the word “Yale” in publication names, it is very rare that an undergraduate magazine’s name is rejected, said John Meeske, Yale College’s associate dean for physical resources and planning, who reviews all new undergraduate publications.

A quest to revive a publication leads to a naming controversy.
The YaleReviewofBooks
A quest to revive a publication leads to a naming controversy.

J. D. McClatchy, editor of The Yale Review, explained that the original undergraduate publication’s name was too similar to The Yale Review’s. Publishers sent books to the wrong publication and Internet searches yielded the incorrect Web site, he said. In fact, the Web site of the old undergraduate review has a link that reads, “Looking for The Yale Review?”

By 2004, after discussions with McClatchy and the Yale College Dean’s Office, the publication ceased to exist, McClatchy said.

“The name ripped off not so much The Yale Review as The New York Review of Books,” he added.

When Ward and Gonzalez asked English professor Anne Fadiman to be their adviser, she brought the new publication to The Yale Review’s attention. Fadiman knew there had previously been a problem with the name and wanted to alert The Yale Review, McClatchy said. Fadiman declined to comment.

“If Walt Disney sees Mickey Mouse being used elsewhere, he wants to protect that property,” McClatchy said.

After Ward and Gonzalez met with McClatchy and Meeske, they settled on a different name — The Critic, Meeske said.

The editors of The Critic also declined to comment on the issue.

“It is our hope that the publication will be known for its content, not for its name,” Gonzalez explained in an e-mail.

Meeske said he has yet to refuse permission to the founders of a publication who have asked to use the college’s name based on the substance of the magazine. However, publications are often asked to include qualifiers in their publication names, such as “An Undergraduate Publication,” to make clear that the college is not responsible for the content. The Critic was an unusual case because of the past friction between The Yale Review and The Yale Review of Books.

Christopher Magoon ’11, founder of the Yale Historical Review, said using the words “Yale” and “Review” in the publication’s title was not a problem, though the staff had to fill out an application to explain why they wanted to use the University’s name. Staff members from four other student publications with “Yale” in their titles, including the recently launched Yale Epicurean, also said they did not have any trouble acquiring permission.

The Critic, which has not yet printed its first issue, will review contemporary fiction and nonfiction and intends to print three issues a year, beginning this year, Ward said at an informational meeting for the magazine.

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