Tel-Buch thrust in limbo

“Deep within the bowels of the Student Union’s basement, one can see boxes upon boxes of yearbooks stacked in a cramped hallway, most of which will never see the light of day. After 100 consecutive years of publication, the Tel-Buch’s future looks grim. A staff has not even been assembled for the 08/09 academic year, and no advisor has been selected.”

Deep within the bowels of the Student Union’s basement, one can see boxes upon boxes of yearbooks stacked in a cramped hallway, most of which will never see the light of day.

After 100 consecutive years of publication, the Tel-Buch’s future looks grim.

A staff has not even been assembled for the 08/09 academic year, and no advisor has been selected. With the fall semester almost over, time has practically run out to make a comprehensive yearbook.

Art Krummel, the retired editor of last year’s Tel-Buch, believes the Tel-Buch’s run has come to an end, for this year at least.

I don’t personally think it’s something that can be started up in the second semester, said Krummel. It’s been a slow death.

Dr. Charles Fey, Vice President of Student Affairs, could not confirm the Tel-Buch’s demise, but said that the university would probably not produce a print version for the 08/09 academic year.

The Tel-Buch ranked third among student organizations in terms of money granted by the university, and school’s administration makes the fundamental decisions for the publication.

Last year, UA gave the yearbook roughly $40,000 to cover production, printing and staff stipends. The Tel-Buch only made a fraction of the cost back from advertising, which has dwindled for the past few years.

Lack of student interest seems to be the root of the Tel-Buch’s problems. In an informal survey of 10 randomly-selected students in the Student Union, none knew what the Tel-Buch was.

Jason Varrecchia, a junior accounting major, summarized the yearbook’s dilemma. I’ve never even heard of it, he shrugged. I didn’t even know we had a yearbook.

The problem is not isolated in Akron. Across the nation, college yearbooks are dying in droves.

Big-name schools like the University of Texas and the University of Georgia have been experiencing the same problems for years.

Purdue, Depaw, Virginia Wesleyan and Mississippi State all ended their yearbooks this year. Other big-name schools including the University of Texas and the University of Georgia may be next.

Unlike most schools, though, the University of Akron offered its yearbook to students free of charge. Still, the majority of the yearbooks remain in the Student Union’s basement.

What has caused students’ general indifference regarding the college yearbooks?

Dr. Fey conceded that UA had no demand from anyone for its yearbook.

Fey recognized the difference between high school and college yearbooks. According to him, students’ school spirit and interest in student organizations dwindles in college years.

Because of work, friends and athletics, school takes less of a central role in modern college students’ lives.

Social networking sites have also contributed to the students’ apathy. Memorable pictures and personal networking can all be found on the internet.

In response, schools have started ushering yearbooks into the 21st century by including DVDs and creating online yearbooks.

For the past two years, the Tel-Buch has included a DVD with videos of various athletic teams and student organizations.

Still, the student interest kept dropping.

For now, the Tel-Buch’s future remains in limbo. The university has no concrete plans, but Fey remains open to the possibility of a double-issue next year or a web-based yearbook recording the rest of this year.

Whatever the administration decides, the odds lie against a traditional print format. The cost of producing a tangible book has simply become too much for the university to handle.

The University of Akron has produced a yearbook in some form since 1880, a decade after the founding of Buchtel College. It began as the Argo, and after two years was christened the Buchtel. Finally, in 1911, the yearbook received its permanent name, the Tel-Buch.

The yearbook served two purposes: to give students professional publishing experience and to give an annual record of the school’s history.

Though many students on yearbook staff go on to pursue different careers, the professional experience with deadlines serves them well into their future.

Also, the historical record proves to be priceless. The Tel-Buch has served as a veritable time capsule, preserving fashion and cultural trends for years to come.

Even if the Tel-Buch misses only one year, the consequences will last forever.

You can’t have a missing link in history, said Krummel. You can’t reconstruct it.

While the university decides what lies ahead for the Tel-Buch, they will no doubt remember the goals of the first yearbook staff of The Buchtel in 1882:

To our alma mater, what the honor paid her. Whether small or great, let our Book-tell.