Yearbook hits financial struggles

By Ari Ofsevit

When the Macalester yearbook, The Mac, was first rejuvenated this fall, the editors thought that they might sell 500 copies. With only 208 sold and a $5,400 shortfall, they are now scrambling for further allocations from Macalester College Student Government (MCSG), but remain confident that the yearbook will go to the printer on time on May 22.

With publication set for August and mailing of preordered books for September, the yearbook will be the school’s first traditional one in nearly 40 years.

The total number of yearbooks printed will be 300, a goal which the co-editors, Ruth Chiu ’06 and Jon Koenig ’06, say is more reasonable.

The yearbook’s fate is not set in stone, but Koenig and Chiu appeared upbeat about its future. “We are still on schedule, we just need to tie down this funding—that’s the hurdle we need to get over,” Koenig said.

“The one thing we do know is that there will be a yearbook and people shouldn’t worry,” Chiu added.

The funding, however, amounts to a rather daunting sum. When books are published, the first to roll off the presses is the most expensive, and each successive book is cheaper. Thus, when 500 books were on order, each would have cost $40.

Once the order dropped to 300 books, the cost for each jumped to nearly $60, but Chiu said that at that price it would be a daunting task to sell the books.

“A lot of people think that $40 is too expensive anyway…if we’d had more enthusiasm and less skepticism we could have sold them at a higher price…but people have shown that they wouldn’t pay [a higher price],” Chiu said.

The price charged will increase to $45 on May 2. Chiu and Koenig expect that a publicity push during commencement will result in higher sales.

Still, the yearbook needs $5,400 in order to pay the higher publishing costs. While the yearbook received $5,000 when it was chartered as a student organization last semester most of these funds have been spent to set up the yearbook office and operation.

If the yearbook staff does not sell 92 more books by August, it would need a loan to cover the difference so it can pay the printer until payments from the remaining books come in. Chiu doesn’t expect this to be the case. “We plan to sell until they sell out…parents will want to buy at commencement. [The loan] is a back-up thing, a buffer,” Chiu said.

The Legislative Body (LB) has sufficient funds to cover the yearbook’s deficit in a general account which will roll over to next year if not used in the next few weeks, but the yearbook will have to jump through several hoops to obtain these funds.

In a recent effort to promote advance planning by student organizations, MCSG recently passed a rule mandating that any new funding be requested three weeks in advance.

Late requests for funds must first be approved for a vote by the MCSG executive board before the LB can vote on the allocation. The board did not allow the LB to vote on allocating funds to the yearbook.

Yearbook staff submitted the request last week, far too late for consideration this semester under the new rules, according to LB member Natalia Espejo ’07.

However, MCSG brought the issue in front of the LB. After heated debate, the LB decided to hold a vote on the funds. In a close vote, according to Koenig, the LB did not approve the yearbook’s funding request. He and Chiu intend to file any appeals they can, as some members of the board were uneasy about the vote and procedures.

Espejo said that she and some other members were dismayed at what may have been an unconstitutional vote. “I sensed on Tuesday that there was some tension [in MCSG] because they had decided [not to allow an LB vote] but still brought it to us,” Espejo said.

Chiu said that she thinks that “[LB members] voted against it…largely because they didn’t want to break the bylaw,” not necessarily because they thought funding the yearbook was a bad idea.

“There was a messy debate,” Espejo said. “I was convinced that [the yearbook] deserves another fair shot at the LB…they’ve worked hard and it is almost a completed project.”

In order to vote on the issue, the board would need to suspend the rules, a relatively rare procedure requiring a three-fourths supermajority. If this were to occur, debate on the yearbook allocation could occur and be passed by a simple majority, Espejo said.

She also said that the LB may be willing to suspend the rules in order to “allow debate in a way that would be constitutional [and that] suspension of the rules doesn’t necessarily allocate the money.” The LB’s last meeting of the semester is next Tuesday.

Chiu said that while MCSG is one of the primary options for funding, it is not the only one. If the request for MCSG funding fails, she said there are other possibilities, but would not disclose any specifics.

Despite the yearbook’s recent trouble, it has moved along this far as an entirely new organization. The Mac was published annually until 1969. By then, the college had changed dramatically, and after an “alternative” yearbook was published in 1970, production ceased for most of the last four decades.

There have been a couple attempts to create a yearbook since, but none as serious as the current push. “There was one [yearbook] in the 1980s and two in 1993 and 1994,” Koenig said, adding that they were not very professionally rendered and certainly not up to the standards of the pre-1970 yearbooks, which set the quality standards the current editors hope to uphold.

“The last yearbook [in 1994] was basically black and white, not many pages—it was definitely not on par with the earlier yearbooks,” Koenig said.

He said he hopes that this year’s book will be high quality. “We set things up specifically so [the yearbook] has longevity and it establishes itself as The Mac with really thick, high quality yearbooks.”