Like many University of Massachusetts students, I have a preferred study spot when I’m on campus. Mine happens to be the W.E.B. Du Bois Library – 20th floor, to be precise. It’s a compromise: high enough for an amazing view of the Pioneer Valley, yet not high enough to attract a lot of foot traffic.
There’s something else about the 20th floor. At the corner of the library, across from a window overlooking Old Chapel sits the library’s collection of the Index, a student-run publication that was once the oldest yearbook in New England.
The Index was first published in 1870, by the third graduating class of what was then the Massachusetts Agricultural College. For the next 136 years straight, the Index chronicled life at UMass — clubs, Greek life, athletics, academics and more. Unfortunately, the Index ceased publication after the 2005-2006 academic year.
That last part is what really piqued my interest. As a member of the Student Government Association (Secretary of Technology, at the moment), I think a lot about the student experience here at the University; policies students need, changes students want and questions to be addressed.
As someone interested in UMass history, when I realized that UMass once had a yearbook, I spent some time researching why they stopped publishing, just to get a sense of what happened. While doing this, I started talking to friends about the discontinued yearbook, and quickly found that there was real interest in the topic — people like yearbooks!
All of that happened before the COVID-19 pandemic began. It goes without saying that the past few months have been a whirlwind. From the pandemic itself, incredible movements for justice sweeping the country and uncertainty in all aspects of nearly everyone’s lives, “living through history” is an understatement.
When the Index stopped publishing in 2006, it probably sounded great, in theory, to replace a yearbook with something like a website or a Facebook group. Since then, however, it has become clear that the Internet can be pretty temporary: social media comes and goes, websites stop being maintained and posts get buried under a mountain of newer posts.
Which leads to this article’s title: it’s time to revive the UMass yearbook.
Yearbooks offer a unique medium of reminiscence that remains relevant. I believe students are interested in them, given they’re priced affordably. Especially during historic times like these, yearbooks offer the best account of what it’s like to be in our shoes as UMass students.
A yearbook full of our collective experience — the clubs we love, the teams we cheer for and the pieces of UMass we all share is undoubtedly a fantastic way to remember our time here.
An in-depth exploratory proposal, which will serve as a foundation to build on top of, has been completed and circulated. Over the next academic year, I hope to build a passionate team of students that will truly make this possible. Collaborating closely with stakeholders in administration, RSOs, agencies and the broader student body, I’m certain we can build a yearbook students want.
Contact me at [email protected] if you’re interested in joining the effort!