Duke Student: University Yearbook ‘Gathering Dust’ & Not Worth Fees It Takes to Fund

Update: Response from former Chanticleer editor

A campus newspaper columnist at Duke University is questioning the worth of the student yearbook at his school — especially because students are helping fund it via mandatory fees each semester.

In a piece published yesterday in The Duke Chronicle, Daniel Strunk informs his fellow Blue Devil undergrads: “Last year, you spent approximately $33.57 to fund The Chanticleer, and you probably didn’t even know it. The Chanticleer, better known as Duke’s student yearbook organization, has controlled an average of 21.57 percent of the total Student Activities Fee budget since 2007. That’s an average of $103,000 each year for the last seven years. This occurs despite the fact that the Chanticleer is, by all accounts, an overproduced and unread publication.”

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As back-up for the latter claim, Strunk cites a July 2012 Chronicle report on a campus building that prior to its demolition housed in one portion boxes of the Chanticleer “[s]tacked almost to the unfinished ceiling … [copies] dating back to the 1990s.” In Strunk’s words: “Piled high and gathering dust — that’s your student activities fee hard at work, ladies and gentleman.”

During the previous academic year, Duke’s yearbook endured a roughly 25 percent funding cut, from $100,000 to $74,150. According to Strunk, an even more “massive decrease” is justified.

I’ve reached out to Chanticleer managing editor Yajing Gao for a response to Strunk’s monetary criticisms and yearbook relevance questions. I will post Gao’s perspectives or those of another Chanticleer staffer if and when I hear back.

In the meantime, a pair of big-picture questions: What is the college yearbook worth to current students? And where should the money to fund it come from?

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