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May 01, 2017

Remembering 1997-1998: Wrap-Up

Most of us are familiar with the annual Beloit College Mindset List. If you’ve missed it, take a look here. The list explores the “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college.”

When I saw the list for the Class of 2020 last fall, I was amused and appalled by some of the highlights:
“There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
The United States has always been at war.
They have never seen billboard ads for cigarettes.”

In a seemingly unconnected occurrence, the CWRU Archives had recently begun digitizing our student newspapers. The Mindset List looks at the entire 18 years of our new students’ lives. I wondered what was happening on CWRU’s campus during the year our freshmen were born. Exploring campus life from the point of view of the students of 1998 for the Class of 2020 seemed like a small, but friendly, welcoming gesture to our new students. It was also an opportunity to use our blog to make those digital newspapers more accessible.

That was the start of the Remembering 1997-1998 project. The 26 issues of the 1997/98 Observer were posted each week, along with a very short summary of some of the headlines. I tried to avoid interpreting, letting the newspapers speak for themselves, but selecting headlines is not a neutral act.

The project ended last week with the April 24, 1998 issue, so I feel free to opine a bit. First and foremost, looking at this year of The Observer gave me a new respect for the work of our student journalists. This not very large group manages to cover an impressively broad range of events and issues on campus.

The most obvious changes between 1997/98 and 2016/17 are technology. Among the innovations announced in 1997/98 were a new “electronic suggestion box.” An ad for an Apple Power Macintosh 6500 for $3,015 appeared. And the editors called for implementation of computerized registration.

A number of events from nineteen years ago could have come from today’s headlines: a benefit to protest police brutality, rape and a “Come Because You Care” candlelight vigil, allegations of racially derotagory and anti-gay chalk markings, efforts to reduce alcohol abuse, an invitation to sign a statement affirming “our commitment to a campus community that supports the worth and dignity of each individual,” and student debt and money management tips.

Some of 1997/98’s firsts included a new alma mater, formation of the Weatherhead Entrepreneurs Society to market student inventions, and SpringFest.

Traditions included WRUW’s diverse programming, changes to the physical campus, the 25th Ebony Ball, Humanities Week events, Winter Carnival, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Convocation, Mr. CWRU Contest, Engineers’ Week, and the April Fool’s Day special edition.

Celebrations of our array of international cultures included Indian Independence, Hispanic Heritage Month, Turkish Deserts Night, and Gobble, Gobble’s international cuisine for Thanksgiving dinner.

Coincidentally, as the project was wrapping up, we received a request to determine how the name of The Observer was chosen. Not suprisingly, there was a contest.

The first issue of The Observer was published September 5, 1969. Its predecessor, the Reserve Tribune, announced in its April 29, 1969 issue that there would be a contest to name the new newspaper. Judges were the new editorial board and the prize was a Polaroid Swinger Color-Pac camera.

The results of the contest were announced in the May 23, 1969 issue of the Reserve Tribune. George O. Siekkinen submitted the winning entry, The University Observer. The editors decided to shorten the name to The Observer. They wanted a name that was short and a "traditional newspaper name."

We’re continuing our project to digitize our student newspapers, starting with The Observer, Case Tech, and Reserve Tribune. They will, in the fullness of time, join our other Digital Case collections:
images
student yearbooks
commencement

Posted by jmt3 at May 1, 2017 12:58 PM

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