It Could Be Ye Domesday for Georgetown’s Yearbook

A word to the wise Hoya: Take mental notes. Keep a diary. Snap some digital photos. Because the way things are going, the traditional form of documenting our time at Georgetown, the yearbook, may soon only be a shadow of its former self.

Ye Domesday Booke, Georgetown’s official yearbook for 100 years, is facing a figurative Armageddon of its own. Underfunded, understaffed and largely ignored by the student body, the future of the yearbook is threatened. Change for Ye Domesday Booke needs to come, and it needs to come soon: Our very memories are at stake.

ost of us have been guilty of perceiving the yearbook as something we’re forced to purchase by our loving, generous but overbearing parents. The truth is, it’s within our power to make it so much more than that.

Ye Domesday Booke is a venerable Georgetown institution. It documents the growth of Georgetown, provides alumni with a cherished keepsake of their time spent on the Hilltop and, as of this year, also catalogues the non-senior-year Georgetown experience. Browsing through old copies, a reader can gather a true sense of Georgetown’s evolution over time. Important changes such as the growing presence of women on the Hilltop can be seen in the yearbook, as can the additions of familiar campus buildings and the increased diversity of the student body.

Not only does the yearbook show the long-term development of Georgetown and its students, but each year’s edition captures the spirit of the time, presenting pictures and stories that sum up that year’s highs and lows. Though many students now rely on Facebook or similar programs to share and save photos, a yearbook offers more than just pictures.

But, for the students who put the book together, the job is often thankless.

The fruits of their labors are not immediate; the students have to work for a year to create a single publication. Others can’t understand why someone would spend so much time working on this nebulous task, but for the editors, it’s a labor of love. They see themselves working to give the community a gift, something the students, as well as future generations, will treasure.

The lack of recognition is demoralizing, and these students should be thanked for the great service they provide for our community. However, any lack of gratification is but the smallest of the staff’s worries.

Right now, Ye Domesday Booke has a staff of just nine dedicated editors. They shoulder the entire responsibility of the 360-page publication. Nonetheless, they apply an intense amount of creativity to their work: Each year’s cover design is unique, with artists constantly finding new ways to capture the spirit of the graduating class as well as that of their younger colleagues. The pages are presented and styled meticulously in an attempt to give every club, every person a memorable space for preservation. Building a cohesive, engaging and representative yearbook requires a level of patience and creativity few of us can comprehend.

Believe it or not, this is not rock bottom for the yearbook; in 2007, the task of preserving Georgetown’s posterity was taken up by only three students, who committed an excessive amount of their time and energy to ensuring that the entire student body would have a tome dedicated to its memories.

But still, even this isn’t the worst of the Booke’s problems. The staff shortage has put the editors in the unforgivable position of having to choose between putting out a quality product and generating revenue. These Hoyas should be lauded for taking the noble route of dedicating themselves to producing the best yearbook possible on behalf of the entire student body, instead of being side-tracked by pecuniary concerns.

Their lofty ambition, however, has financial repercussions. The staff cannot dedicate the amount of time necessary to pursue more advertisers, increase awareness and ultimately sell more copies, all of which would result in a lower cost for students. Yearbook leaders explained that the Center for Student Programs, which oversees the yearbook, and the Media Board have demanded that the yearbook bring in more money, lest they be forced to make cutbacks in the publication. Editors say that this may come in the form of fewer color pages and more ads. (We’re sure Georgetown alums will love picking up their edition of the Wingos’ Domesday Booke to show their children 30 years from now.)

The yearbook is already paying the price. The current staff has had to cut the page count from 432 to 360 – reducing the amount of content and coverage.

This forces the yearbook staff to make a difficult decision: charge more or cut content.

With the book priced at $95 without tax, it is already beyond the reach of penny-pinching students.

We understand that the university is trying to make money, but this is decidedly the wrong venue for that endeavor. To put it bluntly: The yearbook is not published to make money, nor should it be.

The yearbook should not be a $95 privilege, but rather should be made easily accessible to all students who wish to preserve a little piece of Georgetown forever.

The university has a responsibility to help preserve the traditions and memories of its students during their years on the Hilltop. We don’t think it’s too sentimental to suggest that Georgetown students’ memories are priceless, but the administration seems to think that students should value them at least $95, plus tax.

If giving a gift back to its students is not enough incentive, the administration could see any money spent on the publication of yearbooks as an investment: The university should realize that when the collection envelope arrives in the mail, Hoyas who can fondly recall their time on campus with a glance through the yearbook may be more eager to give back.

But it’s not just the administration that needs to show some support; the student body needs to kick into action, too. Instead of bemoaning their bad luck for being forced to sit for their senior picture, students should take a more active role in helping preserve their memories.

The good news is that it’s easy. It takes hardly any time to submit photographs and potential articles to the yearbook. With a little effort, students can begin to help craft what can truly become “their” yearbook. Clubs and organizations, an integral part of our experience at Georgetown, need to be more responsible about replying to the yearbook’s call for materials. If “We” truly “Are Georgetown,” then we should all take a larger role in preserving Georgetown’s memories.

Georgetown is steeped in tradition and a rich history, which we continue to add to today. There must be, however, something to document our contributions. The yearbook is as important a tradition as all those bound within its intricately designed covers.

Let’s not sell our memories short.

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