Unfriended: UVA’s Corks & Curls yearbook out of business

I’ve sometimes pointed out to my students that in my generation, graduating from high school and leaving your peers behind to go to college mostly meant that you were saying goodbye.  Since then, I have gotten back in touch with a couple dozen high school friends, and even some elementary school friends (including the smartest girl in my fourth grade class, whom I longed to befriend at the time).  We didn’t bring a whole online social network with us, it was pretty much a clean break.

The students I teach now are still in regular contact with their high school friends, and I’m sure they expect to be, at least in the superficial “Facebook friend” way, for the foreseeable future.  I’m not really surprised that they don’t feel the need to buy a yearbook to memorialize the way things were.

My undergraduate school has discontinued its yearbook, due in no small part to lack of interest.

They seemed to care about the yearbook back in 1888, when the first issue was published, and the name– originally chosen at random– was ascribed an arcane meaning via a contest won by med student Leander Fogg, who reasoned that “corks” were students who didn’t know what to say when called upon in class (like corks silently plugging a bottle), whereas “curls” were students who knew all the answers, as one who “curleth his tail for delight.” A few years later, the student publishers– all men in a pre-coeducation UVA– described their book:

A monument raised by the students, to be a memorial to them of each other, of the University, and of all things common to them and to the University.”

In effect, it was a 19th Century version of social media, something that
allowed students to preserve a shared experience. Ironically, the 21st Century’s version, Facebook, appears to have been a contributing factor in the demise of the storied yearbook. —Dave McNair, The Hook