By Clare Myers & Michelle Deroche
Staff Writer, Contributing Writer
Like most resistance movements, the new University of Dallas student publication, The Avant-Guard, started with a tight-knit group of friends with a passion. They wanted to be countercultural. They wanted to be quirky. They wanted a way to express the inexpressible — the search for truth and the vibrancy of the UD intellectual life that is intertwined with a certain lightheartedness to take the edge off, much like a Cap Bar drink with a little whiskey in it.
The name of the new student publication sponsored by Student Foundation is not a misspelling. “Avant-garde,” as defined by Merriam Webster, refers to “an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts especially in the arts.” The avant-garde are those who go before, those who are ahead of their time.
But senior Killian Beeler and his “stalwart staff,” as they call themselves, understand that the culture at UD is already countercultural. Their goal is not only to be a little outside the mainstream, but also, in a manner seemingly antithetical to the avant-garde mentality, to maintain the traditions of this university. That is why they are the “avant-guard”; the idea behind the publication is to safeguard UD’s distinct legacy.
To give a small glimpse into the first issue, contributions range from a secret Cap Bar menu to a well-crafted ballad, with topics ranging from the Old Mill “Couch” to Friday Nights. The artwork includes an illustration from “The Groundhogiad,” an epic poem that delves into the “quasi-legendary history” of Groundhog Day, written by members of the class of ‘84. Adorning the pages is a champagne bottle celebrating the “tipsiness” of being alive, a muscular Achilles exemplifying the glory of the human form and an impressive coat of arms suggested for the now male resident dorm Theresa Hall.
But lest we think of The Avant-Guard as self-important in its intellectuality, the front cover tells a different story. A figure in a hot air balloon floats above the Tower in the foreground of the cover illustration, declaring, “What a bunch of hot air!” It is this dichotomy of lofty ideals and humble beginnings that characterizes UD, and that, in the first issue, is what the staff of The Avant-Guard aims to convey.
But can it last? College students are wonderfully creative — in theory. Ask us to brainstorm, and we can come up with endless plans and proposals. It takes an uncommon group of undergrads to actually make these ideas a reality. The stalwart staff of The Avant-Guard has taken that first step. However, the real test of success is not initiative, but perseverance. Many a publication has been founded with the best intentions, yet few survive.
What is it about these types of initiatives that often causes them to fizzle out? Is it a failure to branch out beyond a small circle of close friends? Is it the narrowness of their focus or the specificity of their intent? Is it simply because no one can spare the time?
There have been a number of publications similar to The Avant-Guard that have sprung up over the years only to dissolve after their founding members have graduated. It is our hope that this does not simply fade away.
UD needs a student publication like The Avant-Guard. But as we all learned in Lit Trad I, a great idea by itself is never enough. In order to sustain this publication — and in order to sustain both UD’s idiosyncratic traditions and its countercultural nature — we need more than just a youthful passion for breaking the mold. We need a mature commitment to be faithful to our roots while branching out and taking risks. The students behind The Avant Guard have made this commitment, but such dedication cannot leave the university when they do.