MEDANSKY: Blue Book, we hardly knew ye

The Yale Daily News recently reported on the demise of the hard-copy Blue Book (“Blue book in its last year,” Sept. 12). No longer will Yale mail that fabled navy tome en masse to many an eager student. The College will instead enhance its virtual course catalogues: the Online Course Selection system and the YCC-backed yalebluebook.com among them.

This past summer, I joined the rest of the freshmen class waiting patiently and passionately for my Blue Book. We checked our mailboxes daily, each Book-less box only heightening the anticipation.

To many freshmen, the Blue Book is a symbol. After years of having our course selections dictated by high school bureaucracy or AP/IB necessity, the Blue Book means opportunity. It means freedom. It means every single course we can take at Yale. To some, the possibilities don’t feel real unless committed to paper, highlighted and marked with a well-placed Post-It.

To be fair, I could already view the course catalogue online, and had done so many times. I was also in Directed Studies and a highly specific language track, so I already knew my schedule with a good degree of certainty. But those realities were mere afterthoughts: I still wanted that damn book.

So I waited. After all, upperclassmen told me that I was supposed to be excited for it, so I was.

Then the Blue Book arrived, and my fantasies gave way to reality. The Blue Book was heavy. And clunky. It smelled kind of weird. Its voyage from New Haven to Illinois rendered it bent, bruised and inexplicably soggy.

I flipped through the Blue Book a couple of times, prompted more by feelings of obligation than any legitimate desire. I did, however, waste hours of my time online, constructing dozens of fantasy schedules for my tenure as a student. Illuminated by the glow of my MacBook, hundreds of academic possibilities came to light.

I find the online course systems convenient, but I’m quick to admit that it’s a personal preference; in other situations, I prefer books to Kindles and turning pages to touching screens. In that spirit, I acknowledge the convenience of having something tangible to mark and highlight, to carry and share.

Furthermore, I appreciate the Blue Book’s symbolic value and its role as a figurative key to the seemingly infinite academic opportunities that Yale provides. I understand why people are so excited about it, because I was once excited about it too. Then I became less of a Luddite and more of a cynic.

But I hope to emphasize this: cries to return to the status quo, even if I do not share them, are not the stuff of mere Luddism; they’re legitimate reactions on both emotional and practical levels.

I, for one, will let the Blue Book go gentle into whatever metaphorical good night it wishes to go. But I certainly sympathize with everyone else — with anyone waiting patiently and passionately at the mailbox, hoping to receive a fabled navy tome that will never come again.

Marissa Medansky is a freshman in Morse College.

Comments

  • grumpyalum

    Is it just me or are there a bunch of columns by freshmen this year? More importantly, they all seem to get Yale wrong and it’s sad what they’ll do with it.

    I am getting old.

  • claypoint2

    Grumpy indeed. I’m also an alum, and I’m delighted to hear these fresh, new voices.

    I can feel a pang of sadness when I think of “that navy tome that will never come again.” OCI is very good, but there is something special about holding that weighty book in one’s hands…. It’s sad to think that Yale students will never have that experience again.

    On the other hand, a few trees (and dollars) will be saved, so it’s all good in the end.

  • River_Tam

    Oh god a *Freshman* is complaining about the Blue Book being phased out?

    Get over yourselves. This is the 21st Century.

  • Undergrad

    You should’ve seen the blue book back when it actually had class meeting times listed, so you could use it to figure out what was actually a plausible schedule.