Gul editor Carolyn Reuman ’06 was kind enough to reply to my previous suggestion that the Gul publish in May. She noted that the Gul sold 300 copies to seniors last year and a smaller number to other classes.

In retrospect, I should not have called the Gul a “failure”. Apologies. First, on its own terms, it may be quite successful. Do the yearbooks of other schools sell (unsubsidized?) copies to 20% of the student population? Second, whatever problems the Gul may have had in the past — I don’t know the details, but the Gul suffered a total meltdown several years ago — this fact says little about Reuman and her current staff. In the same way that it is unfair to talk about College Council in general, without recognizing that each year’s CC is made up of a very different set of people, it is unfair to tar the current Gul with the problems of Guls past. Third, since my claim is that everyone — Gul staff and Williams students — would be better off with a May publishing date, I am more likely to get someone to listen if I am nice rather than mean.

I meant to argue that the yearbook scene at Williams could be much better than it currently is, not because the Gul takes bad pictures today, but because not enough people look at the good pictures that it does take. My claim is not that the Gul is a failure, but that it could be much more successful.

Could Williams have a radically different yearbook tradition than other elite colleges? Sure!

Virtually every first year comes from a high school at which yearbook signing is a traditional rite of spring. Why would/should College be different? Signing yearbooks is fun. It is nice to sit down and think a bit about what the year has meant, what you want to remember, what you laughed and cried about together. Again, it might take a couple of years to jumpstart the tradition but as long as the first years started to buy in, I would predict that change would come quickly.

I can guarantee that, 20 years later, any student who does get his yearbook signed will be glad that he did. Life is most importantly lived, but it should also be captured and recorded.

What does the Gul have to lose in trying the experiment?

(Although I don’t have problems with the idea of a main edition and a fall supplement, I would actually recommend just including the previous year’s late spring and graduation events in the following year while keeping the senior photos in the current year. An added benefit is that some seniors might want to also buy the yearbook that came out the year after they graduated.)

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