The maxim at Yale has always been that if you can’t say something nice, submit it to The Yale Herald’s Valentine’s Day issue. But this year, students may have to find another forum for casting aspersions on their enemies and sending love notes to their sweethearts.
The Herald is considering not printing its annual Valentine’s Day edition because of its tremendous cost, difficult production and hurtful messages that have often appeared in the issue’s pages.
Cost is the primary issue involved, Senior Editor Kate Moran ’02 said.
The Herald prints a minimal number of advertisements in the issue and loses a great deal of money distributing the issue to all 5,000 undergraduates, but the problems don’t end there.
“We don’t want our issue to be a forum for people to insult each other without having to write their names,” Moran said. “The production is a total nightmare — last year we had about 15,000 valentines and the issue was 108 pages.”
Herald Editor-in-Chief Justin Chen ’03 said the issue is still up for discussion.
“We haven’t really made a decision yet,” Chen said. “They’re not threatening to sue us, but we have to think about costs and stuff, too, and just whether we want to run it in its current form.”
Moran said they are also considering canceling the issue because it is too difficult to censor for inappropriate entries, and students have been upset about the hateful e-mails that were posted anonymously.
“I received complaints from students along the lines of a letter to the editor that thought it was wrong for the Herald to print these kinds of hateful valentines, but I was never approached by any lawyers,” said Moran, who was editor-in-chief of the Herald last spring. “People did contact the dean’s office who were upset, but I don’t know exactly what their intentions were or exactly how it was resolved.”
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg would not comment on whether students proposed any legal action, but said several students did approach her with concerns.
“Some people found the entries very hurtful and felt that they were damaging and not based on what was true,” Trachtenberg said. “In some of these cases the entries were so inappropriate I had to let the editors know what people were saying.”
Trachtenberg said she had fruitful conversations with the Herald editors, but added that the administration does not attempt to censor student publications. She also said she made no recommendations as to whether the Herald should continue to publish the Valentine’s Day issue.
“There were no threats, I never told them that they couldn’t publish it anymore or had to change the issue,” Trachtenberg said.
The Herald staff is still considering ways to print the issue more feasibly, Moran said.
“We’ve been talking about many options,” Moran said. “0ne of them is limiting the number [of submissions] to five or 10 per person. The problem with that solution is right now the submissions are anonymous and there’s no way of tracking. To do that we’d have to go through ITS or Yalestation.”
Brad Rosen ’04, who was noticeably made fun of in a pullout quote in the Herald’s 2001 Valentine’s Day issue, said he thought the Herald exacerbated the problem by putting extremely offensive quotes in insets. He also said he does not think anyone sees the Valentine’s Day issue as a forum for romance.
“I don’t think the romantic aspect they were aiming for was ever really there,” Rosen said. “I never really saw it as romantic — from day one everyone saw it as the place to make fun of people.”