An Alternative Press
Articles from the Fixer, Madison’s alternative student press, have already been cited throughout this exhibition. It was begun in 1969 by Harambee – before Harambee was official in the eyes of the establishment. Jay Rainey was the editor, his wife did most of the illustration, and all students were welcome to contribute articles and editorials to the publication. In an interview Rainey says, “everything that came to mind was printed. I mean we didn’t leave out anything that was happening. If it was an issue on campus, or at least to us, then it was printed in the Fixer…. Sometimes the administration would walk around campus and pick the Fixers up to throw them away” (Turner). The Fixer was the medium through which nonconformist students were able to voice their frustrations with the administration, the SGA, the Breeze, and other elements of campus life they had reasons to oppose. The following articles illustrate the ways in which the Fixer railed against the mainstream campus agenda:
Here, Harambee encourages students to get involved in campus politics. They used the Fixer as a means to rally support to their cause. The SGA represented a minority on campus – the exceptionally popular and smart students according to one Fixer contributor – so the more students who begin participating in events like this one, the less control that elite group can maintain.
Articles like the one above are typical for this publication; the students who wrote for the Fixer consistently argued that the SGA needed to work independently of the administration and faculty in order to be effective. The struggle to be heard was an ongoing battle between the Harambee minority and the various branches of the Establishment on Madison’s campus.
Feedback from Students
In 1970, the team of students producing the Fixer passed out surveys concerning the student body’s general reception of their press. Six of these survive and can be found in JMU’s Special Collections Library. Generally, the students had two comments. First, the articles are often controversial, but it’s good to have an alternative perspective from the Breeze. Secondly, stop using vulgar language just to be controversial (Rainey Papers). Though the students were enthusiastic about improving the quality of the Fixer, few wanted credit for contributing to the publication. While a wide audience benefitted from the paper’s existence, only a minority of students were willing to be known for their involvement in the project. Once again, Madison students partake in the political and social revolution to a degree – but very few embrace the full nonconformist identity associated with hippies.
Turner, Jeremy. “Jay Rainey Interview.” Blacksburg, Va. January 30, 1998. JMU Special Collections Oral Histories, Harrisonburg, Va. Mp3s created and edited by Emily Kohlhepp.
Jay G. Rainey Papers, JMU Special Collections, Harrisonburg, Va. SU 97-1007.