Anderson University unveils final issue of yearbook

Wed, 2007-12-12 10:33 -- univcomm
December 12, 2007

Echoes inevitably fade to silence, and Anderson University’s Echoes yearbook is no exception. The 2007 yearbook, now available to those who ordered one, will be the last edition because students say they prefer to keep in touch through Web sites like Facebook rather than remember their experiences with a yearbook.

“Students voted with their feet and pocket books on this one,” vice president of academic affairs Carl Caldwell said.

The student body had become less willing to be photographed for the yearbook and dwindling sales of the $35 volume hardly justified publication, he said.

Overall, the school sold 275 copies of the 2007 yearbook, down from 964 in 1995, according to David Baird, the former Echoes faculty adviser who is on sabbatical this semester.

“Many colleges have a hard time sustaining a yearbook program these days,” he said in an e-mail.

Ball State faced a similar decline in sales over a decade ago, and in 1996 the university canceled its yearbook program.

Marilyn Weaver, head of Ball State’s journalism program, said the yearbook had become financially unfeasible even though it provided a valuable student experience and historical archive.

“Yes, we can always go into electronic archives, but somehow to me it’s not the same,” she said. “I guess as time goes by that’s what we will rely on.”

Ball State used some of its yearbook funding to begin an online news magazine, she said. Anderson University is looking into beginning a student public relations firm for communications majors, David Baird said.

He said that Facebook, more than anything else, is killing the college yearbook.

“Until fairly recently, the yearbook was probably the best way for a student to archive college memories,” he said. “But now with video cameras and cell phones and computers and social-networking sites, students can produce their own customized media. They don’t think they have to rely on the yearbook staff to preserve memories for them.”

Students seemed fine with Anderson University’s decision to close a publication that first appeared in 1922. Senior Andi Pruner said she had never felt a need to purchase a college yearbook, and senior Brad Webster said college isn’t like high school where everyone knows each other, so buying a yearbook seems pointless.

Out of the two dozen students asked to comment about the end of Echoes, only one had purchased the last edition, and he said that was because his mother paid for it.

Sophomore Lauren Householder said she may live to regret not buying a yearbook, but right now she feels it’s a waste of money.

“If I did get one, it would be to match faces with names, and Facebook does that now,” she said.

Connie Graham, a 1975 Anderson University graduate who now lives in Michigan, said the news saddened her, because as an alumna she treasures being able to look back at her college years.

“It’s very special to me,” she said. “Three of our four children are also alumni, and that was usually part of their Christmas present every year.”

She said she often hears about people she went to school with but whom she didn’t know personally. Since she wouldn’t have been friends with them on Facebook, it’s nice to be able to look them up in her yearbook, she said.

Carl Caldwell said he was concerned for the students because no one knows what the future holds for technology like Facebook.

“I’m also a historian by training, and I understand the power of written records as long-standing documents that you can hold on to year after year,” he said. “I can’t imagine that Facebook will be around in 20 years.”

—Barrett Newkirk is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.