An important fixture of college life is rapidly disappearing. Yearbooks are being dropped at colleges across the country, including right here at Pomona College. The Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) announced recently that Pomona’s yearbook, Metate, will be discontinued for a number of reasons. According to First-Year Class President Nico Kass PO ’16, there is a lack of interest in the yearbook and the school is losing money by continuing to publish it. This disinterest in yearbooks comes from the rising effect of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. With social networks linking hundreds of friends and offering digital photographs and videos, the traditional yearbook looks like a dinosaur about to go extinct.
Let’s be real, though. Yearbooks and social networking are completely different things. While it’s easier for students to keep in touch with people through social media, it won’t have the same effect as pulling out a yearbook. Even though many students have Facebook profiles and are all “friends” on the social networking site, yearbooks are good memories to hold on to as the students grow older, to remember their friends and experiences at Pomona, as Ricardo Morales PO ’15 puts it. Yearbooks capture the events, and that becomes a permanent record that lasts through the years, especially for graduating seniors. One of the most endearing features of a yearbook is that friends and professors can sign it. Not only is one left with a lasting, personal message of friendship, but one also practices real networking skills required in the physical world. This is the one thing that cannot be done online. There is simply a physical surety one gets with a bound yearbook.
I find it sad that yearbooks are being discontinued here, where there is such a strong sense of community and family on campus—not only with students, but with faculty as well. I understand some students at large universities not being interested in upholding the yearbook tradition because the larger the school, the less importance a yearbook really has. While a yearbook at a university contains many pictures of students that one will not know, that is not the situation at smaller colleges. With graduating classes of around 400 students, many people will know each other and will want to remember their classmates for the years to come.
“I cannot believe they’re dropping our yearbook!” Gustavo Ruiz PO ’13 said when asked how he felt about the end of Metate. “It’s like all our memories of the past four years are being forgotten.”
It’s possible to take pictures with your best friends and keep the images as mementos from college, but what about your favorite professors? Are you going to ask all of them for pictures and have them sign your notebooks?
There are possible solutions to the problem of the failing college yearbook. One practical solution would be to offer a DVD, or an interactive website where students can access the yearbook. This would make sense in that not only is the college saving money, but everything is going digital in today’s times. Another option would be for the Metate staff to focus on ways to improve participation, such as accepting user-submitted Facebook photos instead of requiring students to come into a studio to take a picture. By completely reinventing the yearbook and giving it a new, fresh look and meaning by emphasizing interesting photography and narrative writing, the yearbook has the potential to become more creative and journalistic than the old model, which could increase student interest. There is always the option of the senior class holding events and activities to raise money to subsidize the overall cost of the yearbook publications.
Some students claim that they will not miss having a yearbook. But who knows how they’ll feel 20 years from now? Long after Facebook has become obsolete, future alumni might just wish for the permanence of ink on paper. At least the other 5Cs continue to realize the importance and sentimental value of a yearbook. The ASPC Senate is currently looking for ideas for a yearbook stand-in that students would be interested in working on to make better use of student fees.