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Lack of interest may lead to end of yearbook program

The Algol, Carleton’s yearbook, is currently facing serious difficulties primarily due to a lack of staff. “We’re in a really awful situation,” said Sierra Hicks ‘08,who has been involved with The Algol since her freshman year.

In the past The Algol has struggled to make publication deadlines. The 2006-2007 Algol was just distributed Thursday, January 10, 2008. Last year’s book production was delayed, according to Robin Hart Ruthenbeck, Director of Campus Activities, due to multiple complications including a lack of staff and off-campus editors.

“That was a signal for me that now is a good time to add some infrastructure, and at the same time confirm that the CSA has been doing what is responsible and look at how its funding is being spent,” commented Ruthenbeck. Concern for the 2007-2008 Algol has spurred Senate discussion.
Most of the Senate agrees that the yearbook does not suffer from lack of funding. The Algol signed a binding contract with a publication company two years ago and has one more year before the contract expires. In a sense, The Algol has already been paid for; it is the actual production of The Algol that is causing complications. “I think funding isn’t really an issue at this point,” said Hicks.
What is more of a concern is the yearbook’s staffing and lack of submissions. According to Hicks, there are many ways to explain this lack of interest and involvement. Primarily she attributes the lack of staff to the busy schedules of Carleton students and the fact that most experienced students choose to leave yearbook activity behind in high school.

Commented Hicks, “There are definitely people at this school who know how to make yearbooks. They know the program we use frontward and backwards, but when I appealed to them on a personal level you’d think I was asking for a vital organ.” Another influence, according to Hicks, may be that the yearbook is a long-term commitment.

The lack of interest of the student body has been disappointing for The Algol’s core staff. Last fall a contact list was collected at the Carleton Activities Fair with over 40 names on it, but e-mails were not responded to except for “two people who simply typed ‘unsubscribe’ and sent it back to me,” said Hicks. “We’re talking about apathy on a spectacular scale.”
Making the creation and publication of The Algol a class has been talked about. However, the idea was rejected as questions arose as to under what department the class would fall and who would teach the class.

The discussion to revamp The Algol has produced the novel idea of making the yearbook a student job and publishing it in CD format. One advantage of publishing The Algol in CD format is that it would be more cost-effective. However, some believe that this would cause The Algol to lose some of its significance. “There’s something really nice about having a tangible way of looking at your memories,” said Hicks.

But this would not address the yearbook’s main concern of being understaffed. “If you put it on a CD the problem still would be that no one’s submitting,” said Hicks.
The value of The Algol, Ruthenbeck believes, also may be affected by the recent phenomenen of Facebook. “How is Facebook going to change [how students retain their affiliation to campus]? How is it going to change the way people make connections?” asked Ruthenbeck. “Still, there’s something very different about that tangible experience of picking up a book and flipping through the pages as opposed to scrolling through pictures on Facebook.”

“One of the things I have been working on is trying to restructure some of our student work responsibilities so that ideally, next year, we will have a Campus Activities student staff person,” said Ruthenbeck on making The Algol a student job. “As a part of their responsibility they will be soliciting pictures from various student groups, coordinating the layout process that now can be done online, and making sure over the course of the year all of those milestones are met.”

A final decision as to what is to be done with The Algol is yet to be made. “Even though there’s a real lack of interest in being involved with The Algol I don’t think it’s something we should cast aside lightly. It has been around for a very long time,” said Hicks. “I think the general population feels positive about having a yearbook, but I don’t know if they think it’s worth fighting for.”

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