The Sexponent?! Alumni look back at old traditions of The Exponent

Alumni of The Exponent staff reflect on ‘The Sexponent,’ a bygone annual parody edition, along with other old practices and traditions as the community newspaper celebrates its 110th anniversary.

Before advanced computers, smartphones, editing and layout software, a weekly edition of The Exponent was produced on the second floor of the Union – full of wax machines, exacto blades and old computers.  

Around April Fool’s Day in the spring semester came another tradition that no longer exists for the current newspaper: The Sexponent, a parody edition that was entirely made up, from its bylines to its content and even the advertisements.   

Molly Freitag, The Exponent’s editor in chief in 1992, said that the annual spoof edition was based partially on the Harvard Lampoon, a satirical humor publication produced by the students at Harvard University, and was created by Exponent staff members just for fun.  

One memory Freitag shared included the Sexponent’s parody bylines. The editor-in-chief decided that everyone who wrote an article in the issue would take on a fake name inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.   

“It was just bizarre, but we were not the normal Seven Dwarves,” Freitag said. “We were just weird names that had nothing to do with our own character. I don’t even remember who I was, but I just remember the news editor was stormy dwarf or something like that and it was just silly.”  

Karen Ellicott, assistant news editor of 1992, and a ’93 BW alum, also shared that one year, The Sexponent featured former President of BW, Neil Malicky, as Mr. Clean.  

“We wrote articles to poke fun at things that were happening on campus or in the news. There were a good number of comparisons made between the school president Neal Malicky and Mr. Clean because they were both bald men,” Ellicott said. “But I remember it as relatively good-natured ribbing. As far as I know Dr. Malicky took it in stride.”   

Outside of The Sexponent, other older traditions included personal ads, which were a large source of revenue for the newspaper. Anyone could pay to put an advertisement in, whether it was for a tutor, to ask someone to a dance or cheer on a friend.  

“I mean, anybody could do it,” Freitag said. “A lot of times it was just silly, you know, cheering people on, saying oh, you know, hey, drop me a line or you know, goofy kind of stuff like that. But yeah, it was a pretty decent moneymaker for us back then.”   

Douglas Tammaro, a former sportswriter and 1991 alum, said the production process of The Exponent included many steps. In the 1990s The Exponent had to be typed, printed, then cut and manually pasted onto sheets that were then taken to printers for final printing.   

“I just remember there were tools involved that looked like dental things, for slicing and stuff. I don’t even know how we did it back then without scanners. I don’t know how we got a picture or a headline in, it’s crazy,” Tammaro said. “I just remember walking out of The Exponent with ink on my hands a lot. I don’t remember how we did it, but I will tell you this: we got it done.”  

Throughout all the stories and memories, each alumnus shared their love for the comradery in the newspaper and all the friends and stories that were made during their time at The Exponent.   

“The best part about The Exponent is that we had people from all walks of campus life working on the staff,” Freitag said. “It was like the one place where we really could all come together and do something for the whole campus community.”