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This Years Changes

October 26, 2009

To the senior class:

I’m sure by now you have all heard about the changes being made to this years Islander in regards to the senior section. I wanted to set the record straight and address some of the concerns that are shared by a majority of you.

There are several reasons why we are dropping the senior memories from the yearbook from now on.

• This change is long overdue. My adviser predecessors have known and tried to implement this change for years, however this is the year it will take effect. Many students complain “Why this year? Make the changes next year.” Obviously, if that were the case, the change would never be made and the vicious cycle would continue. And it has for far too long. The yearbook staff will continue to keep the senior section special for students by including other information such as activities, birthday, nicknames, screen name, and a quote.

• Bad language and inappropriate comments. Every year, students bend the rules by writing comments which contain profanity, sexual innuendo, refer to drinking/drugs, and are racist and/or sexist. There is no way for our staff to catch every incident. There have been many incidents of schools who get into trouble, and sometime have lawsuits filed against the them after the books have been published. Getting rid of the memories is the only way to cover ourselves. Statistics for past Islander publications have shown that 1 in 3 students include some form of inappropriate language in their memories which must be edited out before printing.

• Islander is a journalism class, not a club. The yearbook is produced by a group of student enrolled in an academic course. We must adhere to an academic curriculum - not the wants and demands of students. The printed portion of the yearbook is no place to include individual memories: that’s what the autograph pages are there for. Our job is to document and report the events of the year and create a book of memories that is applicable to ALL students, not individual seniors.

• There simply isn’t space. This year, the senior section is moving from three seniors per page to four, and in doing so there is no room for lengthy memories. There are formulas we must follow as a yearbook staff in terms of what percentage of the book is dedicated to each section. The Islander already extends a large portion of the book to seniors (roughly 30%), much more than the 17% standard set by the organizations that evaluate us. Most books in the US only give their seniors a small portrait photo with a quote, so what we extend to our seniors is already above and beyond what is offered by most schools. 

• Deadlines. Every year, senior approach staff after they have submitted their memories requesting changes. Either they left one of their friends out, broke up with their significant other, or something has happened that they find the need to change what they have previously written. Accommodating these requests is simply impossible. In journalism courses, we adhere to strict deadlines and we don’t have the time or manpower to satisfy these changes.

• Personalized messages. In the past when there have been memories, the messages written to individual friends has been only a few words long. Most likely, you will be signing each other’s books at the end of the year anyway and writing a full message. Inside jokes that pertain to you and a small group of your friends do not belong printed in everyone’s book. You are more than welcome to write whatever you want when you are signing their book come June.

These are only some of the major reasons this decision has been made. When I originally approached the editors at the beginning of the year, I told them flat out that we would be getting rid of the memories altogether. As you can imagine, they were just as upset as you all were. However when they allowed me the chance to explain as to why these changes were being made, they reluctantly understood. 

The compromise we came up with was to include a message directed towards parents and family to thank them for everything they have done. I agreed. Parents have the opportunity to give their seniors a “send-off”, so it is only fair that students be allowed the chance to do the same. The layout that has been designed for this year’s book allow space for a brief message.

The message is designed to be a general “farewell” to SAS - your last words so to speak. You cannot mention individuals by name, unless they are immediate family members. Anyone else included will be deleted. You are welcome to thank your teachers and your friends in general, but stay away from individual names.

 The message must be written in proper sentences and contain proper grammar. Anything that breaks these rules will be deleted. And it must be tasteful. A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t want your grandma to read it - it doesn’t belong in print. Remember, your yearbook will hold the most value to you 10 years from now when you want to look back at your high school years with fond memories. Don’t taint that by writing something immature and offensive.

I hope this clarifies the concerns and justifies why these changes are being implemented. If you have any further questions, feel free to come by and chat.

Mr. Tate Sonnack

Yearbook Adviser