Readers talk, and Columns responds

When Columns readers speak, you can be sure that we are listening. Last fall we gave a thousand of our readers the chance to comment on the magazine, telling us what was working—and what wasn’t. Overall, the response was heartening. About two-thirds of you “always” or “regularly” read Columns, quite a high number when you consider we are all extremely busy people. You also told us that we are an important source of news about the University and that our coverage was “above average” in all areas and particularly strong in research, teaching, faculty profiles and alumni achievements.

You also told us what you’d like us to change. You want to see more articles on research, University news and campus controversies. You’d like to see less space devoted to class notes, obituaries and UW Alumni Association news. You also said you’d like to read a UW history column.

The features in this issue reflect those interests. For those with an appetite for campus controversies, we take a look at the state of the Greek system in the wake of a fracas that caused one student to lose her eye. We continue our coverage of teaching and faculty with a look at the 1993 awards winners, “The Best of 1993.” A photo essay covers the achievements of our 1993 Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus, Dale Chihuly. Last, we combine your interest in UW research with your interest in the outdoors in “The Misbehavin’ Tourist,” which reveals the cost of unintentional vandalism in our parks.

There are many changes in our editorial departments as a result of your comments. You’ll find a new column, “Vistas,” which highlights recent research breakthroughs at the University. At the back of the magazine, you’ll find “Our Back Pages,” a UW history column.

To make space for these new items, we’ve had to trim other departments. Our obituaries will now simply list the name, place, class year, age and date of death. Each issue we will write a longer obituary on one alumnus who had a strong impact on the University and the world. In the Alumnotes section we will continue our policy of printing news only from members of the alumni association (to become a member, call 1-800-AUW-ALUM).

Our reader survey wouldn’t have been possible without the support of two dedicated volunteers: Linda Henderson of Seafirst Bank, and Bill Hamilton of GMA Research in Bellevue.

We’re changing even though our colleagues feel we’re doing a pretty good job right now. On April 8 Columns was rated one of the top-written college magazines in the nation, as the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) gave us a Silver Medal for Periodical Staff Writing. On March 13, the Washington Press Association named Columns the top nonprofit, color magazine in the state. We can either fear change or we can welcome the challenges that come from it. We hope you like these changes, and we welcome your reactions whether you like them or not.