After 147 years of publication, the Student Budget Committee (SBC) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) will discontinue funding the University’s Olla Podrida Yearbook in its current print form. The decision was made in response to a declining purchase rate over the past several years, although Olla Podrida members dispute some of the WSA’s arguments for canceling funding.
Last year, the yearbook was subsidized with approximately $20,000 in SBC funding. According to Ben Firke ’12, Chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee of the WSA, unless yearbook sales reach a certain quota, the WSA must pay the difference.
The WSA conducted a nonbinding straw poll of its members last April on whether the SBC should continue funding publication of the yearbook. A large majority of WSA members voted against continuing to provide financial support for the print version.
“We took [the result of the poll] as a sign that we should stop funding the Olla Podrida,” Firke said.
However, according to Matias Seijas ’11, last year’s Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the Olla Podrida, the poll was taken before the yearbook purchase window closed.
“We actually ended up breaking even,” he said.
The funding for the yearbook, like the funding for all SBC activities, however, comes from the Student Activities fee.
“Breaking even still means a huge sum taken from the Student Activities fee,” said Becky Weiss ’10, Vice President of the WSA.
Last year, the Olla Podrida underwent a vast restructuring aimed at boosting sales, which had been declining in recent years. Members of the yearbook staff were chosen through a rigorous selection process and this was the first year that they were paid for their work in order to encourage greater commitment to the project.
“Thousands of dollars can fund dozens of student groups and concerts over the year,” Firke said. “In its current print form, [the yearbook’s] not worth it to fund.”
Founded in 1862, both Firke and Seijas acknowledged that the Olla Podrida is in many ways a tradition on campus. Firke questioned, however, whether the declining popularity of the yearbook is indicative of a dying tradition.
“If very few people are participating, does it cease to be a tradition?” he said.
Options such as putting the yearbook online or placing it under a different department in the University are currently being considered as alternatives.