Emporia State’s Associated Student Government has determined that “The Sunflower” yearbook deserves to have nearly a third of its budget cut over the next four years. They suggest that other state universities are following suit, that printed yearbooks are “wasteful,” and that many are reverting to pre-sales as opposed to student fee funding. However, as the editor-in-chief and a member of the yearbook for over four years, I have to disagree.
The yearbook, first and foremost, serves as a historical archive and a long-standing tradition at Emporia State. In our office alone, we have copies of yearbooks dating back to 1916. Yearbooks exist to provide more than memories, they exist as a vital historical resource.
Digital versions of the yearbook, to some, may reduce waste and cost, but will they be readily available in five years? Ten years? Over the decades, yearbooks have attempted to break into newer mediums: beta tapes, floppy discs, CD-ROMs. How many of those can you easily access today? How many will you be able to access in the future? Printed publications have proven themselves over and over, and will continue to do so. A tangible, hardbound copy of the yearbook will always be more valuable than a digital file or a website.
Not to mention, ESU as an institution lauds itself for “higher impact learning,” or in simpler terms: real world experience. The positions I’ve held at the yearbook have given me more career experience than I could have ever expected. I’m able to work in the publication industry while still being within the realm of my college education, and this same opportunity is granted to every single employee on our staff.
Cuts to the yearbook not only negatively impact the book itself, but also affect the real people behind the publication. Budget reductions can mean fewer staff members, and in turn, less high impact learning.
In terms of what similar universities are doing, printed yearbooks absolutely do exist and run off of student fees at other schools. Pittsburg State University (a school similar in enrollment and tuition to ESU) produces their Kanza yearbook off of student fees, and is a recipient of numerous statewide and national yearbook awards. Kansas State University’s Royal Purple yearbook was recently the recipient of the Associated College Press Pacemaker award, one of the highest honors in college journalism.
When yearbooks are reverted to pre-sales, they are printed in lower quantity, and thus, cost more to each student. Our yearbooks currently cost $12.90 out of student fees for full time students, but changing to individual sales could cost anywhere from $40 to $100 per book. With this price increase, student demand decreases, and this could even potentially result in losing the yearbook entirely.
Despite ASG’s stance, “The Sunflower” yearbook is valuable, vital, and absolutely necessary in its print form. The yearbook holds student memories, photos, and stories, and most importantly: an incredibly vast historical archive for Emporia State. Student journalism, as well as our published history, deserve to live on.