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A Brief History of The CLAP

Carleton’s admissions websites says The CLAP, or The Carleton Literary Association Paper, “is a weekly student publication distributed Fridays during Convocation hour. It accepts a wide variety of articles, opinion pieces, fiction and poetry, much of it satirical”.

This description of The CLAP is seemingly accurate, however it leaves out much of the mystery and intrigue behind the evolution of the publication. The CLAP as we know it today is markedly different from The CLAP Nico Vreeland ’02 and Chuk Kitteredge ‘02 started in October of 2002.

When asked in an interview why he and Kitteredge decided to create The CLAP, Vreeland responded, “I felt like the college’s culture was changing for the worse. Things that were used as brochure material when I’d applied to Carleton were not tolerated four years later—e.g. the custom of spray-painting the bell tower was treated as vandalism instead of the irreverence that Carleton claimed to champion. So we wanted to provide a voice of dissent against the tightening administrative attitude and in a funny way that stayed true to the irreverent spirit that had drawn us to Carleton in the first place. Also, we wanted to use expletives in print.”

The first issue of The CLAP was laid much like a traditional newspaper, except it was printed on 8.5×11 sheets of paper instead of newsprint. It featured headlines such as “Snowing to be Banned on Campus by 2005” and “We are Looking for a New Name” (interestingly a new name was never coined).

Satirical pieces were printed in “hightower” font, while serious pieces (if you can call them that) were printed in a more standard font. Over the years editors have denoted satire or untruthful pieces with asterisks or put pieces they did not like in difficult to read fonts.    

The front page included an inspirational call for submissions written by the founders Vreeland and Kitteredge “Anything you want to write, draw, conceptualize, or think about late one lonely Friday night, we’ll print. Talk shit about us- we don’t’ care- just make it shit that people will read. So sac up, buckle down, get out your crayons and start scribbling. Let’s fuck some shit up.”

The spirit of this exclamation feels revolutionary and inclusive—a rallying cry to empower the masses. And, at the time The CLAP was started, this was quite a radical move.
Vreeland recalls, “The Carletonian was a closed system. If the editors didn’t like your story idea, they wouldn’t run it, or more frustratingly, they’d ‘edit’ it and run a dramatically different piece under your name.”

Which is why he and Kitteredge felt there was room for a publication that would publish anything students wanted to write, without making any changes (a policy The CLAP upholds today).

It was difficult to get people to submit pieces, despite allowing people to write whatever they wanted. Vreeland says, “I think that maybe people didn’t believe us.”

However, by the November 15, 2002 issue a greater variety of stories, written by people other than the editors, made their way into the publication. This issue featured the first poem,“Gender Neutral Are You a Slut Test”, confessions of Carleton Crackheads (not printed in the designated satire font), and a correspondent from St. Olaf’s take on their dry campus, titled “Dry Campus = Dry Pussy”.

The first year of The CLAP was full of trial and error, and more than a few controversies. When asked what people’s initial responses to the publication were, Vreeland said, “some people hated us, but many tolerated us”.

He recalls that their working habits were unconventional—“we would write nothing all week, and then stay up all night on Thursday, drinking beer and writing the entire issue in the Geo lab.”

One of Vreeland’s favorite memories of The CLAP fits with their goal of reinstating the cheekiness they once saw in Carleton’s traditions. Chuck Kitteredge interviewed Dean Govani, who Vreeland asserts was “the chief officer of the attack on irreverence at Carleton.”

Vreeland recalls that “Chuck managed to interview him, make fun of him, and hit on his daughter, all at the same time. That was good.”

He also remembers how The CLAP covered a prank a Carl pulled on kids at the local middle school. Apparently Dean Govani declared the prank an “act of terrorism” and had the student expelled. Since The CLAP wrote and received their articles the night before they distributed, they were the first publication to cover the event.
“That felt like we were doing something that was actually important,” said Vreeland.

The 2004-2005 issues of The CLAP were the first printed in booklet form like they are today. The content of these issues differed from the 2002- earlier 2004 ones in that they began printing more silly pictures and short blurbs.

Marley Glassroth ’06 was editor at this time and remembers The CLAP as being fun to read because it was entertaining. When she and her fellow editors handed out booklets on Fridays, they were accompanied by giant, handmade, hanging mascots and loud music.

In an interview she said, “we definitely wanted to bring something fun, not at all serious, and with an element of visual interest (i.e. not just printed words).”

Glassroth reflected on the difference between The CLAP, The Carletonian, and the Carl and said, “The CLAP served a totally different purpose. It was rarely about news, unless it was a commentary on that news. It was entertaining, abrasive, subversive, usually hilarious and sometimes really well written.”

Jacob Hoerger ’14 is a current co-editor of The CLAP and also involved with the Carletonian. Similar to Vreeland, Hoereger’s disappointment in The Carletonian’s editing drove him to write for The CLAP. During his junior year, he began writing for The Carletonian again. Hoerger says, “The CLAP has gotten better this year perhaps, but I’m not too optimistic about the future, what with Overheard at Carleton and the Class of 2017 group.”

Hoerger sees this year’s CLAP as a place on campus for people to bring up issues. He said, “We are the place people think of. I wish it weren’t like this though. I wish it were more like a place for people to place random thoughts that aren’t related to other things. But, people like reading people yelling at each other.”

He does not think this form of expression is particularly positive. He wholeheartedly agrees that it is important for students to have an outlet such as The CLAP because it allows students to put themselves out there in front of an audience and “requires a little more gap between when you have an idea and you can just post it on the Internet right away.”

Today’s CLAP definitely reflects this age of technology. Hoerger noted, “a lot more submissions are in the styles of memes or things people have gotten texted to their iPhones. That wouldn’t have been submitted in the early years of The CLAP. You wouldn’t have a smart phone. Also, the proliferation of funny pictures on the Internet makes our job as editors different.”

While the content in the present CLAP is definitely different from what it was in the past, it is not necessarily a bad thing. This difference could be seen as representative of the cultural and intellectual decent that critics of our generation claim we have undergone due to technology, and it is entirely appropriate for The CLAP to represent that. The CLAP is meant to represent any and all facets of Carleton’s students’ culture, as it was created for the purpose of giving students a place to write and read about things they find most interesting and entertaining.

After reflecting upon the differences in his CLAP and today’s CLAP Vreeland said, “The real purpose of The CLAP was to give students who wanted to express themselves a forum for that, without the imposition of somebody else’s aesthetic or ideology. The way that Chuck and I and that first group expressed ourselves was with a lot of satire, but that shouldn’t be the defining aesthetic of The CLAP forever, and frankly I don’t think The CLAP would have survived for 10 years if we had tried to dictate structure and content. I’m proud of The CLAP, but it doesn’t belong to me. If it’s letting people express themselves, that’s great, and if other people don’t like it… well, then I guess not all that much has changed after all.”

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