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The Katzwer’s Out of the Bag: Yearbooks should be sentimental, not shrug-inducing

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: Opinions


The end of fall semester means something different to me this year than it has in past years. As a senior, not only can I feel my Brandeis career entering its final stages, but I am getting ready to say goodbye to my friends who are graduating early. I have been making promises—which I probably will not keep—to stay in touch and have been desiring mementos, such as photos.

Although you will never see a copy of it in your four years at Brandeis, we do have a yearbook: Archon.

It is a very nice publication but it is rather obsolete. With Facebook these days, everyone already has college pictures of their friends. The other purpose of yearbooks is to have your friends sign them with funny or encouraging messages so that years from now you can look back and say, “I remember that; what a card!” or “I remember that; what a bitch!”
But the Archon is sent to the previous year’s seniors at some point in October, after they have already moved on and when they no longer really care about their college yearbook. They occupy that in-between stretch of time when graduation happened so long ago that they do not really care and yet graduation happened so recently that they are not nostalgic yet.

There are no signatures. There is no traditional passing around of yearbooks. There are no trite messages from people who do not really know you but are pretending they do because they know they are supposed to.

The reason the yearbooks are sent so late is because graduation photographs are included in it. Is this really necessary? Sure, it is nice but, by including this, Archon is depriving seniors of the pleasure of receiving their yearbooks before the class fragments. My high school yearbook did not include graduation and I liked it just fine.

If Archon is really desperate to publish graduation photos, they could print a small, separate booklet of graduation photos. They could then sell these to make a profit, funding the booklets. Trust me, parents would buy them; most parents love their children, especially their reasonably successful children who graduated from Brandeis.

Another problem with the yearbook is that only seniors appear in it. This is not high school, where oddly enough the other grades did make an appearance. At Brandeis we mingle with everyone. We are in clubs with people from all years. We are in classes with everyone from first-years to seniors—even graduate students.

Although we are identified on school records and in the school papers by the year in which we will graduate, that is not how we define ourselves. I am a Brandeis student, not a Brandeis ’12 student. I have friends in all the other years and it saddens me that they will not be in my yearbook.

Additionally, I am not friends with everyone in my year. I do not even know a lot of people in my year.

Of course, not every senior will even appear in my yearbook. One of my best friends never got her picture taken because she said she just did not care about being in the yearbook. While this is not technically Archon’s fault, perhaps if they upped their presence on campus and incentivized people to want to be in the yearbook, this would not be the case. My friend said she just did not care. She will not receive the yearbook in a timely manner and, without her friends’ signatures, what is the point?

Also, getting your picture taken for the yearbook does not guarantee you will be in it. According to Archon, 19 students from the class of 2011 were left out of the yearbook. Archon, which was not to blame for the screw-up, was very apologetic and reprinted the yearbook free of charge for those 19 students and other who want it.

“I realized my senior portrait was left out of the yearbook only when I received it in the mail,” Michelle Miller ’11, one of the students left out of the yearbook, said. “I noticed that it had one ‘Miller’ and then it just skipped my friend (Chris Miller) and me. Initially, I was pretty disappointed; my mom was livid. She kept saying that I worked hard for four years at this university and that I won’t be able to look back and see it, that no one will be able to look back and see me. I was pretty disappointed but I knew that there wasn’t much that I would be able to do now. Everyone already received that particular copy.”

Michelle took it a lot better than I would have. Perhaps her calm acceptance, however, shows how insignificant students think Archon is.

“Overall, it’s disappointing but life moves on,” Michelle said. “My friends and I just make jokes about it. Then again, I don’t really feel attached to the yearbook at all, and I wonder if that’s an unfortunate result.”

Suwei Chi, co-editor-in-chief of Archon, apologized for the error and explained that the error occurred on the part of the publisher. “Since the discovery of this error, I have been working closely with Jostens (our publishing company),” Chi explained. “We sent out the class-wide e-mail and allowed the class of 2011 to decide for themselves if they wanted another copy that would include all the graduates who took the portraits, whether or not they knew the 19 students. From this, I received 85 requests for new books, and I have requested for Jostens to reprint 120 copies total. These additional copies will be distributed to the archives, the Office of Alumni Relations, the Department of Student Activities and for Archon itself.”

Although the new copy is being offered to all 2011 graduates, let’s be honest, most will probably not avail themselves of the offer, as can be seen by the limited response Chi received to her e-mail. Michelle and 18 of her classmates will not be in the rest of the class’ yearbooks. While I am sure Michelle and the others will be remembered by everyone despite this slip-up—even I remember Michelle just from the one class I took with her—it is still just sad.

Not only was no one able to sign their friends’ yearbooks, but some people will not even appear in their friends’ yearbooks, whether through their own fault or not.

Yearbooks can be lovely mementos but if Archon truly wants to be a part of the Brandeis experience, it needs to step up its game. Archon needs to build hype, making people want to get their pictures taken, and it needs to publish during graduation weekend, not months later.