A Book Without the Class
Three Hundred Fifty
by the Harvard Yearbook Staff
Harvard Yearbook Publications; 480
THIRTY-TWO BUCKS. To some that's six or seven hours worth of hard work. To others it's a bottle of champagne. And to the graduating class, it's four years of memories titled Harvard Radcliffe Three Hundred Fifty.
Or at least it should be.
A yearbook is a nostalgia producer--you buy it so that in 30 years you can flip through the pages and remember your Harvard years. You can sit your grandchildren on your knees, point to your face in the varsity soccer picture and reminisce about the day you saved by booting in the tie-breaking goal. Or you can grin and sigh as you find a candid shot of your old roommates beaning each other with rotten vegetables in the Adams House Raft Race.
But does this year's volume of memories fulfill its purpose? There are some great senior pictures with detailed lists of each graduate's activities during his or her Harvard years. But countless seniors have been complaining that many of the extracurriculars they checked off on their "activities forms" weren't included in the yearbook.
The lists don't really matter, because the yearbook sections that are dedicated to organizations, sports, publications, etc. provide the records and memories of what seniors did as undergraduates.
Well, not exactly. These sections record the activities of the seniors lucky enough to belong to the organizations which weren't left out by the yearbook editors.
For instance, if divestment was your issue, and you belonged to SASC, you have a group picture and a paragraph which describes your goals and actions. Of course, you may be surprised to read that SASC is "a variety of organizations and several dedicated individuals." So are the friends of the Franklin Park Zoo. But unlike the Friends--and 163 of the 197 real undergraduate organizations--SASC did make it into the yearbook.
Particularly distressing was the omission of some groups that were equivalent in size and purpose to those that were included. SASC and The Salient made it and so did Room 13--but don't look for the Committee on Central America, Perspective or the four other peer couseling groups on campus.
MAYBE YOU'RE thinking that your activity was included if it was athletic. Probably. But, that doesn't mean your personal blood and sweat were honored.
For instance, if you are a senior who struggled for four years to make the first boat of the crew team, you're not in the yearbook. The yearbook editors printed the record and photo of last year's varsity boats, not this year's.
If you played women's rugby, you may feel offended that the single record of your multiple bruises and endless hours of practice is one photo of a player who graduated last year. And no win-loss records at all--not this year's, not last year's.
All students share scholarly struggles, so, you might assume that the section titled "academics" might be more complete. In fact, only 10 concentrations are represented by photos of 15 of Harvard's most noted professors. Only two of those 15 stars are science professors--so if you studied math, physics or biology, don't waste any time looking for familiar faculty faces.
THE YEARBOOK does have space and deadline concerns. What space and time the editors did have could have been better used.
For one thing, they could have shortened the "Prologue" and used the space for other organizations. The "Chronology" (which isn't chronological, but why nitpick?) is supposed to be a trip throught the 350-year history of our college. Yet interspersed among the interesting histories and old photos are artistic pictures of autumn leaves, snow covered rocks, or shadowy, unrecognizable paths.
Also, many of the objects represented are present in multiple pictures in the section--there are at least four pictures of Memorial Hall, and no less than five shots of crew events.
Likewise, there are 22 pages of "Epilogue," an esoteric display of some fantastic photography. Most of this section belongs in a book of photography. In 30 years, the artsy pictures of sleeping people, lobster traps, and brick walls will not draw me down memory lane. They will mean nothing to me as I sit with my grand-daughter on my knee and remember my college years. They don't serve the purpose of a yearbook--to provide a record of the college experience.
Looking for other ways to squeeze space? There are six full pages of football pictures--from the three-page team section to three-page coverage of The Game.
Oh, and the omitted Spring sports? Well there is a picture of the shanties and Ivory Tower in the book. The picture couldn't have been taken before April 16 because the Open University wasn't constructed yet. So spring team photos could have made the yearbook's pages.
If you're worried that the spring sports sections wouldn't have been complete because the seasons weren't over, maybe you're right. The problem could have been solved by leaving them out altogether and mailing a "Spring Sports Supplement" sometime in the summer. The supplement could be affixed to the yearbook, and each class would then have their own senior year records in their yearbooks, instead of last year's.
Well, maybe extracurriculars, concentrations and sports really aren't the necessary memories. Candid snapshots are also wonderful mnemonic devices.
The problem, though, is that almost all of the candids are of underclassmen--very few are of the graduating class. Somehow I doubt that the few sophomore and junior faces dwelling on the pages of the book successfully represent the numerous memories of the class who bought the yearbook--the class of 1986.
I'M SURE THE yearbook editors and staff put tremendous effort into the book. And it's a good book--it records much of what Harvard is about. But it's not a good yearbook for the Class of 1986. Too much of what that class is about has been left out.
What's unique about yearbooks is that they are dedicated to the class they are written for. There are plenty of books about Harvard. Nowhere else can the class of 1986 find a personal record of their class memories. As I hear comments on the "Three Hundred Fifty" from my senior friends who will be leaving me tomorrow, I hear complaints that their book doesn't focus on them, but on an institution that has countless publications about its history already.
I hope that next year I don't feel the same remorse.
Jennifer M. O'Connor '87 is a member of Perspective, Response and the Radcliffe Novice Crew and concerned about being entirely omitted from the next yearbook.