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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

The yearbook: a record of the past, or simply a relic of it?

The Tufts yearbook can in some ways be likened to Bigfoot or weapons of mass destruction — something that is often discussed, but rarely seen.

"I've heard of it, but I've never seen one and never had any interactions with it. I have no idea if I'll end up getting one," senior Stephen Sherman said.

College yearbooks are becoming increasingly rare and unpopular.

In the age of Google and Facebook.com, the question, ‘Where are they now?' is fairly easy to answer, leaving the relevance of a hardcover yearbook under scrutiny.

Colleges nationwide are weighing decreases in sales and interest against the notion of tradition. For example, Purdue University recently announced that the 2007-2008 edition was the final publication of its yearbook, the Debris.

The Tufts yearbook, which is sold primarily to seniors and their families, has recently faced its own challenges.

Office for Campus Life Director Joe Golia has been actively recruiting students after the majority of the yearbook staff graduated last year.

 "We didn't have any students signed up," Golia said. "I'm serving as advisor of the yearbook. We hope to not need an advisor because we'll have students, but [for now], I'm guiding them."

After seeing Golia's recruitment ad on TuftsLife.com, senior Emily Roitman decided to join the staff this year.

"It's something I'd been thinking about for a while, and I [wanted] to work on it as a senior because that's when it's most beneficial," Roitman said. "I think it was the idea of being part of something that's going to last. As a senior I want to leave feeling really connected with this campus."

According to Golia, the Internet is changing the role of the yearbook on college campuses. Whereas the yearbook formerly served a practical purpose, it now exists for sentimental value.

"I don't think anyone grabs a yearbook now to contact someone. They grab it to remember someone, and before they get the yearbook, they'll go on Facebook for that person," he said.

This has left administrators nationwide in a tough spot.

"Every college is talking about this. Some administrators would say that we absolutely have to have a yearbook every year, but lots of student activities offices are seeing whether this is needed anymore," Golia said. "Colleges are starting to get rid of them. In this day of technology, a book is not the thing anymore."

Roitman said that she hopes Tufts is not heading in the direction of eliminating the yearbook.

"I think that students realize that the two entities are meant to serve different purposes. Facebook puts a large emphasis on the individual, while the yearbook preserves our community, the Tufts community," she said. "With Facebook, people have privacy settings set so only their friends can look at them, and photos can be removed. [Also], some people take away their profiles when they enter the workplace, but that's not going to happen with a yearbook."

Golia said that the yearbook might need to change so that it aligns with student needs.

"I'm absolutely going to start looking at sales and student interest and make a decision," he said. "Are parents just buying it or do students actually care about the yearbook? I need to see what people want. If the yearbook is not of interest to people anymore, we can do a booklet of senior portraits."

Sales of the Tufts yearbook have not suffered significantly.

Over the past 10 years, an average of 700 books has been sold annually. At $85 each, book sales along with advertising cover the cost of producing the book.

According to Golia, the book has been particularly popular among parents, but that too may change.

"A parent will buy a book for a student and a book for themselves," Golia said. "As parents of college students become younger and [more] tech savvy, I think the trend will be towards [fewer] books being purchased [because] they won't think that a nice cover or leather really means anything. Parents are still at the age where they think that's a neat thing to have."

Some students see eye-to-eye with their parents on the value of a tangible product.

"I think it's still nice to have something physical that you can have in your hands and look at. It's still important to people," sophomore Molly Dow said.

Still, the need for a college yearbook is less pronounced than it used to be among most students.

"There's too much that goes on [here] to really have a comprehensive yearbook that wouldn't be 5,000 pages long and that would have everything I want to see," Sherman said. "All the information I need I can find online in two searches. It's the same thing for pictures of friends and loved ones."

Senior Phil Marsel agreed.

"I have my own pictures of the people I care about," he said.

Although the future of the college yearbook is uncertain, for now it remains a subtle staple of the undergraduate experience.

"I don't think it's a top priority on campus, but for sentimental reasons … I might get one," senior Alec Lewis said.

"Yearbooks have the ability to capture a time in your life," Roitman said.

"It's a collection of permanent memories; it's something nice, something nostalgic.
You can sit down with your family and point out pieces of your college experience. I think that's something special."


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