The 2010 Cornellian Yearbook

2 06 2010

So, my time at Cornell is wrapped up. It would seem fitting, not only as a graduating student, but for historical reference, to invest in a copy of the 2010 Cornellian yearbook.

Problem is, they suck.

First of all, if someone wanted to preorder, they make it pointless by offering no discount or advantage whatsoever. Not one dime, no personalization of the cover, nothing. There’s no incentive to order early so many people don’t. Of course, they print hundreds upon hundreds of copies anyway because they know over 3500 undergrads are about to graduate.

As Elie already noted, the historical accuracy and the writing are nothing short of atrocious. It would be one thing if they seemed to try at historical accuracy. But the mistakes are glaring, appalling, and most unfortunately, frequent.

I guess what I get hung up on are the photos of the students. Okay, so they sorted them by college (not done in older yearbooks). That’s cute. Rather pointless since everyone has friends spanning all schools and it makes them difficult to look up, but I digress. But it’s just a photo and a name. Could they at least make a half-hearted attempt to capture the glory of the old yearbooks?

The old yearbooks used to give a form to graduating seniors, usually when they had their photo taken, or sometimes submitted separately. The senior would give a very brief summary of their activities and accomplishments, no more than two of three printed lines. It usually went along these lines (and it varied depending on how much the person wanted to include):

HUXLEY, Martha. Ag. Ho-Nun-De-Kah. Cornell United Religious Work. Dean’s List.

HYMES, John.  Arts. Lambda Chi Alpha. Navy ROTC. Scabbard & Blade. Dean’s List. Graduate, Moorestown High School.

In earlier years, they were included in the space next to the photos. In later years, this section was moved to the back of the yearbook. In the past few years, it has been done away with completely. Which is a real shame. One of the things your yearbook should be memorable for is the inclusion of your accomplishments as well as those of your friends and classmates. Take that away and the yearbook loses a lot of its importance (especially to me, someone who would depend on those little bios for historical analysis of individuals).

On that note, the fraternity section — crap. The staff couldn’t get a group photo from each house as they have in almost every year prior? Bullcrap. Photos of the house are token, and all can be collected with a good set of wheels and a good camera within two or three hours at most. At least attempt to get a list of seniors from each house.

The yearbook tries to offset it’s cost (which, since it costs nearly $100, must not be working) by selling back pages to the parents of students seeking to lionize their children. I for one am not a fan of public displays of adulation. I have no desire to see full page ads of your son at ages 3, 8, 12, 17, and now and read about how proud you are. Couldn’t you have just bought a nice card instead? Back in the day, the Cornellian was more reliant on donations for ad space from companies in Ithaca – clothing and other retail stores, restaurants, B&B’s and the like. It was less egocentric and, in my humble opinion, more professional.

The photos in the Cornellian? Nice, but not nearly enough to make up for the steaming pile that comprises the rest of the book. Arguably, they can’t control the lack of hundreds of seniors from the yearbook either (which I felt uncomfortable looking through and not seeing their faces, but it’s their choice whether to get their photo taken or not).

I love history and I believe yearbooks are a valuable historical tool. Cornell has a fine tradition of quality yearbooks that are a great resource for research or even just the merely curious. But this was pathetic and shameful. This yearbook does not deserve to be associated with Cornell University and has diminished historical value.

In conclusion, the 2010 Cornellian Yearbook is absolute crap.