Ye Domesday Booke, the university’s yearbook since 1905, was dropped as a student organization from the Media Board two weeks ago.
The Media Board, which oversees all student publications, voted to terminate the yearbook’s status as a student organization on Sept. 30, three days after sending an email to the student body encouraging people to apply for co-editorship positions.
The move came after several years of low student interest in one of the university’s oldest publications, according to Vice Chair of the Media Board Chris Cronbaugh (COL ’12).
While Cronbaugh emphasized that the yearbook’s organizational status change does not jeopardize its publication, losing the backing of the Media Board, in addition to a lack of leadership and undergraduate participation, is likely to strain the perpetually understaffed group.
Former Ye Domesday Booke Editor-in-Chief Ashley Angelotti (SFS ’11) fears that the yearbook will no longer include some of the unique features that it was able to add as a sanctioned student publication.
“If the students want that, then they have to show the administration and the Media Board that they are willing to work for it,” she wrote in an email.
The yearbook’s fate has been precarious for the past few years, following the rise of social networking and declining awareness of Ye Domesday Booke’s existence. With the advent of sites such as Facebook, students now have free access to photos and comments that would normally be featured in the annual book.
Current transition editor Ciara Foldenauer (COL ’14) said that it has been hard to attract attention to a publication that she believes is dropping in popularity across the board.
“Maybe it’s not really a college thing anymore,” she said, pointing out the decisions of other universities, namely Mount Holyoke College and Wesleyan University, to discontinue the publication of their yearbooks.
Foldenauer also said that people who are interested in publishing, writing and photography have gravitated toward more visible on-campus publications.
With the current lack of interest in Ye Domesday Booke, Foldenauer questioned whether this year’s edition will get published.
Despite the $1,000 stipend and free summer housing provided for co-editors of Ye Domesday Booke, fewer than one dozen people have applied for the position this year.
However, 12 to 15 people have expressed interest in engaging with the yearbook this year in lesser roles.
“We never got around to actually staffing people because there wasn’t enough interest,” Foldenauer said.
The yearbook depends heavily on student contributions, but most undergraduates seem hesitant to help because of the workload required, according to Foldenauer.
“There are other things I could be doing with my summer that are more useful for my future career,” Preston Mui (COL ’13) said.
Because it involves a lengthy production process, Ye Domesday Booke requires its staff to live at the university over the summer in order to reach the deadline for its publication.
“How do we balance the institutional value of having a yearbook with perceived low interest on the part of students?” Erika Cohen-Derr, director of the center for student programs, said. “The physical nature of the yearbook does make it special, but all options are on the table.”
While many sympathize with the yearbook’s predicament, Jordan Moeny (SFS ’15) said the legacy of the publication does not necessarily make it an integral component of university life.
“I think it’s unfortunate. … But life will go on,” she said.