LOOKING BACK: Waillatpu yearbook thwarted due to lack of committed staff

Brennan Jorgensen

For 100 years, Whitman College published an annual yearbook. Entitled Waillatpu, after the original Whitman mission, the yearbook existed from 1907 to 1997.   While many students have expressed interest in owning a yearbook, no one seems willing to take on the commitment required for its creation.

Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell did not think it was a lack of interest that killed the yearbook, but rather that the college was simply unable to find a full time staff willing to participate.

“Whitman students want to do a lot of different things and are not typically interested in picking one thing that takes all of their time and all of their energy,” said Maxwell.

Many schools of Whitman’s size have forgone the yearbook as well. Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. and Willamette University in Salem, Ore. have both failed to produce a yearbook for the past few years.   Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., however, has adopted their yearbook as an one-credit activity course, providing students with greater incentive to participate.

“The coolest thing is digging up old yearbooks and seeing how the school used to be. If we had one,   I’d buy it,” said sophomore Alex Graves.

Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Michael Paulus thinks it is unfortunate for current and future students, as well as alumni, to not have a yearbook. When students come back for reunions, Paulus is unsure of what artifact they will have to look back on.

“To not have something as concrete and focused as a yearbook creates a lamentable gap in the record,” said Paulus.

A yearbook provides a reflection on the college and what students do in their regular lives. While the physical book is no longer being created, it has arguably been replaced by other media. Some students feel that Facebook and MySpace have in ways taken on the role of recording events through pictures and messages.

“The fact that people like to take pictures and keep track of themselves hasn’t changed, but the way people are doing it has changed,” said Paulus.

Facebook, however, is constantly changing and presents an ephemeral picture of Whitman. Some students think an online or CD version of a yearbook would be a good compromise.

“An online yearbook would set in stone a picture of Whitman now, while Facebook is constantly changing. Hardcopy yearbooks are just wasteful and expensive,” said sophomore Andrew Spittle.

Although a yearbook would help memorialize students’ activities and lives at Whitman, student support has been lacking.

“Who wants a college yearbook? There are so many people who you don’t know,” said senior Aaron Rose.

The large size of a graduating class poses an additional challenge. Many argue only certain students would be represented in the yearbook, perhaps friends of the yearbook staff, instead of a wide cross-section of students and activities. For this same reason, however, some think it would be fun to have one.

“I think it’d be really cool to have a yearbook. It’d be fun to look through and see all the people I could have been friends with,” said junior Andrew Aviza.

Associate Director of Academic Resources and 1985 Whitman graduate Carole Hsiao said that the Waillatpu was never a very big deal to her as a student.

“It was so much work for people that I think it took the fun out of it. I don’t even have the one for my year,” said Hsiao.

Maxwell noted that if there was a group of interested and dedicated students they would have institutional support, but as of yet this has not happened.