‘Waiilatpu’ Evolves to Adapt to Budget Cuts

Lachlan Johnson

In the face of a massive ASWC funding cut last year, Whitman College yearbook “Waiilatpu” has been searching for a way to survive and produce a compelling product. Changes include the elimination of paid staff positions, reorganizing the yearbook to encourage students to buy one every year and reaching out to alumni to request more funding.

Photo by Allie Felt

Due to low student interest and involvement, ASWC attempted to allocate “Waiilatpu” only $150 in this year’s budget, down from $13,350 in the 2012-2013 academic year. This would have practically eliminated the yearbook, and while “Waiilatpu” staff managed to avoid this fate and convince ASWC to raise its funding to $3,500, it still faces a significant budget shortfall.

“I’m hoping that ‘Waiilatpu’ will use the discussion from last year to motivate them to come up with some creative new twist to the yearbook,” said junior ASWC Finance Committee Chair Tatiana Kaehler.

In response to student feedback and ASWC’s concerns, the yearbook is reformatting to focus more on the individual events of the current year. Rather than featuring sections on clubs and sports, “Waiilatpu” staff have been attending events and interviewing individual students in an attempt to make material more specific to this particular year. “Waiilatpu” Editor-in-Chief sophomore Meg Logue hopes that these changes will encourage students to buy a book every year, instead of only once.

Logue has also been pushing the idea of interviewing students around campus on questions about the daily life at Whitman, in the spirit of “Humans of New York,” in order to bring a humanistic element to the yearbook and to connect with as many people on campus as possible. However, Logue believes that even if it manages to increase its popularity, “Waiilatpu” will not be able to provide a quality product without finding additional sources of income.

Photo by Allie Felt

“I’m really happy that they let us continue as a media organization … [but] it was frustrating to me because with the amount of money that we were given, it’s virtually impossible to do what they want us to do, which is give books out for free to a significant percentage of the population,” said Logue.

Logue has been working with ASWC President Tim Reed to find ways to raise additional funds, and is considering offering advertising space to businesses in the community. She also plans to reach out to alumni, both to increase sales and solicit donations to help keep the yearbook running, and hopes the changes being made to emphasize events and individuals will make the product more appealing to alumni as well as students.

Whether or not Logue is able to raise additional funding, it is too late to provide pay for this year’s staff. Regular staff are no longer paid for their work as they were in previous years, and while last year the editor-in-chief could count on the assistance of the photo editor, design editor, layout editor and publisher, all of these positions have been eliminated due to lack of funds for their salaries and the failure to retain veteran staffers due to the lack of pay. Logue and Assistant Editor junior Aislyn Booth are the only returning members to the staff this year, though they are joined by nine first-years.

“It’s been hard to drum up positive support from the older grades because of the whole debacle that happened last year [with ASWC and budgeting], but we really want to drum up new excitement and get a staff that has a good base in yearbook and become a senior staff as the years go on,” said Booth.

While the yearbook staff have been working hard to meet the numerous challenges triggered by the budget crisis, there are many difficulties remaining and time may be running short. While ASWC approved a small budget for “Waiilatpu” this year, this spring will bring a new round of budgeting which could restore some of the lost funding, or mark the end of the yearbook.

“Ideally, I would love to see an increase in student interest in the yearbook,” said Kaehler. “I think the Finance Committee and the senate’s decision at the end of this year will be based on what student interest is at that time.”