The Battlefield, University of Mary Washington’s yearbook, decided yesterday to continue publication next year after weeks of uncertainty.
UMW’s yearbook is currently one of the highest funded student organizations, with a yearly budget of $49,000.
Around the nation, lack of interest and funds have taken a toll on campus yearbooks, such as the University of Virginia’s Corks and Curls, which folded just shy of its 120th issue, according to Karen Shaffer, UVA’s director of student activities.
“The staff did what they could to continue to print the yearbook, but the demand decreased making it not financially feasible,” Shaffer said.
UMW’s yearbook has not seen a decrease in demand, or faced problems with funding, but suffered from lack of student interest in joining the yearbook staff.
According to Joe Mollo, director of the office of student activities and faculty advisor to the Battlefield, there are currently nine students on staff, and five or six returning next year.
“They are committed to going forward,” Mollo said. “They are working hard on the current edition, but are seeing that it really is time consuming. They recently lost their layout editor and now the entire staff has to learn how to do that too.”
Anne Elder, current co-editor-in-chief of the Battlefield, said that finding members for the staff is a constant battle.
“The yearbook requires a lot of resources in order to be done well, including a fairly large budget from the Finance Committee as well as interest from the staff,” Elder said. “Over the past few years, we have had a hard time keeping a regular staff, so the turnover for staff as well as editors has been fairly high. Last year at this time, there were three people remaining to finish it, all of whom were editors.”
According to Mollo, the yearbook is still a strong and desired part of UMW.
“We mail them out to graduating seniors,” Mollo said. “The rest were put at the information desk and they were gone.”
Last year The Battlefield printed 2,000 copies with 320 pages in each.
Shaffer said that many attribute the lack of interest from UVA’s student body in the yearbook to the size of the school.
“The students who spoke with me about this didn’t feel a connection to a printed yearbook,” Shaffer said. “Some felt that at a smaller school, a yearbook would be more important and immediately relevant to them, but at a larger school they did not see this value.”
However, some members of the UVA community were upset when Corks and Curls ended publication.
“We received several calls from parents and alumni when the yearbook ended in which they expressed their sense of loss that this piece of history and reminder of one’s college experience would not be a part of the current students’ experience,” Shaffer said.
There has been some talk, however, of Corks and Curls having an online edition for the UVA community.
“There had been some talk of a digital version immediately following the announcement of the last publication,” Shaffer said. “However, nothing has yet been finalized.”
According to Elder, the same would not happen at UMW if the yearbook ceased publication.
“An online book would require almost the same resources staff-wise as a print book, although probably not as high of a budget due to printing costs,” Elder said. “It would all depend if we are able to garner enough interest to keep it going.”
But Elder is not in favor of an online-only edition.
“You aren’t going to keep a laptop in your bookcase 40 years from now to show off your terrible haircut to your kids,” Elder said. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think the book should stay just that: a book.”
Freshman Claire Patrick is in support of UMW’s yearbook as well.
“I definitely would like there to be one,” Patrick said. “When I’m older and out of college I’ll want to look back.”
Shaffer agrees that a physical yearbook is a tradition that is worth being preserved.
“Yearbooks have been a piece of the history of the institution,” Shaffer said. “Without a yearbook, we have lost that particular visual and written collection of the student experience.”
“It’s like any other tradition; you hate to see it go away,” he said.
Junior Michael Sullivan said that the yearbook is obsolete.
“I don’t really see the point,” Sullivan said. “My friends, I’ll remember and everyone else has no real meaning to me.”
According to Mollo, apathy toward student organizations is a problem that all of the university’s clubs are facing.
“It’s not just the yearbook, it is all organizations,” Mollo said. “We have 138 student clubs and organizations, and some are stronger than others. They ebb and flow based on student interest and their availability to participate. It’s not uncommon to see students with more than one job today.”
According to Elder, knowledge of the Battlefield’s existence is as scarce as staff.
“As far as UMW is concerned, I think it’s more that people just aren’t aware that we exist,” Elder said. “It’s kind of a shame too, since we put so much of our time and the school’s money into making it every year. If I got a dollar every time someone said, ‘We have a yearbook?’ to me, I’d be able to fund it myself without any money from the school.”