University of Central Arkansas officials will revisit the university’s agreement with the Oxford American, a prestigious literary magazine dedicated to Southern writing, during the next Board of Trustees meeting Friday, Sept. 7, President Tom Courtway said.
The move comes after the Oxford American Literary Project board voted to fire Editor Marc Smirnoff and Managing Editor and Art Editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald in July. Since then, UCA investigators have looked into sexual harassment allegations and made recommendations to fix problems that could be seen as a hostile work environment at the magazine.
At the same time, the agreement that extended the original 2004 contract between the two entities and keeps UCA and OA together expired in 2010, according to the May 17, 2007, agreement to extend the contract. A new agreement was never signed, UCA and OA officials agreed.
Now, the university is looking to become more involved with OA, Courtway said. He wants to talk about where the relationship between OA and UCA stands and where it is going, he said.
Courtway plans to hold meetings with other UCA officials to discuss "how they view our relationship and how we should change it — if we should change it," Courtway said. Those discussions will happen in the next couple of weeks, Courtway said.
He also plans to meet for a second time with Publisher Warwick Sabin, Courtway said. The two meet previously earlier this month.
Sabin said the magazine is open to listening to UCA and finding out how they’d like to be involved with the magazine.
Currently, the university gives the OA about $50,000 a year for supplies and furnishes offices at Old Main on campus, but few interns serve at the magazine. UCA’s human resources department did not have a record of Smirnoff teaching courses at the university, spokeswoman Venita Jenkins said in email.
Former editor Marc Smirnoff did not return a message left on his cell phone Friday afternoon.
Since coming to the university in 2004, officials at the magazine have borrowed about $700,000 from the university in "supplemental financing," Courtway said. Under the original contract, that money was to be repaid as soon as the magazine began to make money — with 25 percent of the surplus going to UCA. That never happened. The magazine, overall, still is not profitable.
"They’ve never been in a situation where they’ve had a positive cash flow to pay us back," Courtway said.
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.
OA has made a pledge to pay about half of its debt over the next five years, but so far, UCA has not seen any of that money, Courtway said. Literary Board Chairman Rick Massey did not return an email message seeking information about the $700,000 debt and OA’s promise to repay.