History of Satire and Free Speech at Lipscomb
Free speech has materialized in many ways through Lipscomb's history. From the Bald Bison to 14 years of the Underground to a small Onion-esque tumblr blog, Lipscomb students (and even professors) have expressed their thoughts on politics, religion, the administration and much more. Since no other campus publication ran unedited opinions, our ancestors had to find other ways to sound their voice. Gather around and I'll spin you a yarn about the people that use to frequent these hallowed tunnels.
The Bald Bison
The Bald Bison was a satirical newspaper that ran briefly in the 1960s. The elusive "Editors" wrote and distributed their critique of our society and our school. The content of the school newspaper, The Babbler, was heavily restricted and polished by administration, so the Bald Bison found a niche that the students needed. These pioneers were the bravest of us all as they were expelled once administration discovered who they were. All that's left of their efforts is the initial issue which was recovered and reproduced by Ryan Gates. You can read it here:
The Lipscomb Underground: Early Years
The Underground was founded in the Spring of 1994 by Justin King and Todd DuPriest, who signed each issue as (ju)stinkin' and ToadMan. Their formula differed from the Bald Bison; instead of writing each issue, they acted as curators of conversation. Each issue was written almost entirely by everyday students, including our own parking-Nazi Patrick Cameron, and even professors, like Dr. Mayo and Dr. Prill. Distributed out of Sewell, a quote from the musical Les Miserables gave their publication its name: "Make for the sewers, go Underground!"
In the Fall of 1994, Justin King took over as full time host, continuing conversations like Fanning suite 301's trial, the F3 button on females, and the immortal Satyre Cafe. Clay Chambers received the baton in the Spring of 1995, but when summer was over and the leaves began to change, the Underground was no where to be found.
The Underground Revived
In 1997 Brian Holaway approached Justin King with the intention to revive the Underground. Thus Brian Holaway became the first of a long line of hosts that stretched an almost continuous 10 years. Readership grew and a website was created. During this time Cheesy Fillers made their first appearance, whispers began about a potential move to NCAA Division-I, and the Underground spread faster than Spring engagement fever.
Eventually Brian Holaway graduated and the job of host fell to Ryan Gates in Spring 1999. Ryan enjoyed one of the longest tenures as host the Underground has seen, spanning 5 semesters. Highlights include the "retirement" of a professor, supposed grade tampering for the new Division-I athletes (and a response from the Provost), and botched High Rise renovations (ah history, how you always repeat yourself).
Finally Daniel Everson became host in the Fall of 2001, right as America was attacked on September 11. Daniel's reign as host was marked by an exceptional rebelliousness from the beginning as he organized a boycott of Papa John's due to a termination of their student discount. Unfortunately his role as host was cut short by a mysterious technicality.
The Subscriber List Disappearance of 2002 and Afterwards
The Underground failed to return for the Fall of 2002. Over the summer, the entire list of subscribers had disappeared. No one truly knows what happened. Perhaps it was a byproduct of a system upgrade. Perhaps the host just misplaced it. Perhaps the administration was behind the technical glitch, motivated to stifle the voices of their students.
The task of rebuilding fell to Jeremy Howard, a budding SGA politician. He ran the Underground from the Spring of 2003 to the Spring of 2005, matching Ryan Gate's record of tenure and covering stories such as a possibly rigged 2003 SGA election. In his senior year, Jeremy became SGA president and used his position in conjunction with his role as host to bridge the gap between students and administration.
After Jeremy graduated, the Underground saw one final full-length semester hosted by Justin Gregory. Randy Lowry became president of Lipscomb this semester.
The original Underground website moved to its own domain after Jeremy but the original website is still available here:
The Underground fades and the "New Underground"
The first female host of the Underground was Natalie Henderson who served during the Spring and Fall of 2006. Only 4 issues went out each semester, possibly due to a change in attitudes toward administration. The social media revolution was happening concurrently, allowing students to go online to voice their frustrations instead of writing in to the Underground. Fewer and fewer people seemed to visit the Underground and conversations became more and more anemic.
After Natalie came Beth Thompson who, after a semester of hosting, transitioned the Underground to an online messaging board in 2007. A Facebook group was created alongside a message board called the "New Underground" but suffered from the facelessness of an anonymous host. Receiving only a few vitriolic posts complaining about social clubs and parking, the message board became the resting place for the Underground for many years. After 14 years of free speech and uncensored opinion, the Lipscomb Underground fell into a deep slumber.
The Dark Ages and the Buffalo
Student life continued normally. The Underground was slowly forgotten. Even though students still needed a place to complain and discuss, such a place began to be considered impossible at a school such as Lipscomb. Free speech once had a place but no one knew it had existed.
In the Fall of 2013, a tumblr blog appeared called the Buffalo. No one knows who created it, or why it was created but it is a gem of Lipscomb satire. Unfortunately it never reached a wide audience and never saw 2014. It's still online and you can access it here:
The Underground Returns and the Present Day
So here we are. You may be wondering how I stumbled upon any of this. Well, I'll tell ya'.
I first heard about the Underground from a friend who experienced the Underground during Daniel Everson's and Jeremy Howard's days as host. The Underground seemed like such an exciting memory, but still seemed like something belonging to a time gone by, a different generation. But in the summer of 2016, an article was posted that changed everything.
A graduate of 2016 wrote an article titled "The Sin of Silence" about the increasing diversity on campus, particularly the rising number of LGBTQ students, and the administration's inability to adjust to these changes. The thing that bothered me so much about the article was that she waited until after she graduated to post the article out of fear of the social or administrative consequences of speaking out. No student of any university should feel like they have to wait until they graduate to speak their mind. So I set out contacting the old hosts and reading through each issue of the Underground, piecing together the history I have shared with you here. Finally, the Underground has returned.
I know that Lipscomb students have substantial and serious thoughts about the University, America and much more. I know they also have silly and humorous thoughts about the same things. This revival is not for the University; it is for the thinking and feeling humans that spend their days and nights there. So with any luck, an outlet for free speech directed at our educational peers will be utilized by the students of Lipscomb once again.