Next year, Yale students will have to request a copy of the storied Blue Book in print if they wish to bring dog-eared copies to the time-honored bluebooking parties in September.
For the first time, last semester students could opt out of receiving a copy of the Blue Book, officially called the Yale College Programs of Study. But next year, students will not receive a Blue Book in print unless they request one online.
In addition, the Blue Book will be redesigned to look more like the rest of the University’s official publications, with a seal replacing the traditional photograph on the cover.
The Yale College Publications Office has introduced the “opt-in” system in response to both environmental and economic concerns, said Laurie Ongley, managing editor of Yale College Publications. Ongley said the University is looking to be sustainable and cost-effective but that its priority is still to supply a Blue Book to every student who wants one. Those who opt out will still be able to find the course catalogue online in both HTML and PDF format, and students can use the more up-to-date Online Course Information system.
In the spring, all freshmen, sophomores and juniors will receive an e-mail from the registrar’s office asking them to select their preference: to receive a Blue Book or to rely solely on the online course catalog. Incoming freshmen will automatically be sent hard copies.
Ongley said she is hopeful this process will to help cut costs and reduce paper waste, but she noted that the new selection procedure might have flaws.
“We would be grateful if students would take the time to go online and make a selection,” Ongley said, explaining that if a significant number of students do not specify their choice, the Publications Office will have to decide whether to order extra books.
Last year, only 275 students chose to opt out of receiving a printed Blue Book, Ongley said, but she said she did not know how many of the students who received a Blue Book did so because they simply declined to indicate a preference online.
Eventually, Ongley said, the Blue Book may go online-only. But this would not happen anytime soon, she said, despite other Ivy League schools’ recent choices to discontinue their printed course catalogues. At Harvard, for example, this academic year marked the first time the course catalogue was not offered in print. Ongley said she was surprised by the fact that Harvard students did not seem to have a strong reaction to the change.
Eight of 10 students interviewed said they would be upset if the Blue Book were no longer printed. Amir Ameri ’13 said he likes being able to mark up the Blue Book, and bookmarking pages online would not be the same. But all the students polled agreed that the opt-in policy was a good change, many of them citing environmental reasons.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said she also sees the Blue Book as an integral part of the Yale experience.
“My copy of the YCPS every year, and particularly now, is dog-eared, underlined and marked,” she said. “It’s how I think about the Yale curriculum.”
The change in Blue Book distribution coincides with a makeover of the Blue Book: In addition to the new cover image, the book will be wider, and the type styles inside will be changed. These modifications should make the book easier to read, Ongley said, and they will make the Blue Book look more consistent with the other publications, such as the Graduate School’s course catalogue and the Freshman Handbook.
The Publications Office has also introduced a new database in which faculty can insert courses and descriptions electronically. Ongley said she anticipates that the new database will reduce the number of glitches that occur in assembling the Blue Book, including the confusion that has resulted when a course is cross-listed under different names in two or more departments.
To make the Blue Book, the Publications Office asks the 80 directors of undergraduate studies to compile by February a list of the courses their departments will be offering in the upcoming academic year — a total of more than 2,000. The DUSs’ then ask their departments’ faculty to name the courses they will teach, though their plans are not always finalized at that point. Once the DUSs’ have approved the courses, they submit their lists to the five people in charge of making the Blue Book, including Ongley.
From there, the Publications Office and the DUS’s communicate back and forth for months, working to ensure that the Blue Book accurately reflects each course offering. By May, the Publications Office stops receiving input and works alone to edit and compile the book, whose 640-odd pages go to press in early July.
Many of Yale’s graduate and professional schools have already stopped printing copies of their course catalogues. Six did not print last year, and three more are not planning to print for the first time this year. In addition, four more are considering only publishing their course catalogues online.
Even if the Yale College course catalogue were to become an “online exclusive” in the distant future, Ongley said a few copies of the Blue Book would still be printed for archival use.