Their hair is big. Their clothes are baggy and shapeless. They say there is no parking. They are the George Mason University students of 1990, and, thanks to Mason’s yearbook video posted on Connect2Mason, their voices echo all the way through to the 21st century.
The things they have to say are surprisingly similar to what might be heard on campus today.
“Mason is a virtual arena of multi-diverse flora, fauna and animal types,” jokes one male student in the 1990 footage. “It’s an absolute spectrum of nationalities and cultures. Nowhere else can you find so many hot freshman girls.”
Others offer more sober assessments.
“There’s no parking,” says one female student as her friend nods beside her.
To Cindy Lont, director of the Film and Video Studies Program and yearbook advisor, the testimonies from the past sound a lot like what one hears today.
“Much of the hairstyles and clothes and the location of the big events have changed, but some of the issues are pretty much the same,” she says. “Twenty years ago, there was a war in Iraq, economic issues and people complained about parking. Today, there is a war in Iraq, economic issues and people complain about parking.”
Lont came to Mason in 1984 and became advisor to the yearbook staff in the fall of 1989, which was also the first year that the yearbook, GMView, incorporated a video element.
“Among the students who worked on the yearbook, there was a big leap in excitement when we incorporated video,” she remembers. “It’s not new now, but it was really new in 1989. A lot of universities are switching over now. UVA [University of Virginia] is going electronic. We did that 20 years ago.”
Beyond putting Mason on a technological frontier, the decision to include video with the yearbook met a practical need.
“In 1988, the university lost about $60,000 in yearbook revenue,” Lont says. “On top of that, there was a lack of student interest, and they were going to get rid of the yearbook.”
By merging student groups committed to yearbook production with those committed to video, Lont was able to create an affordable and adaptive tradition that endures to the present day. The reduced costs and increased campus attention brought about by the video component kept the yearbook alive.
“It really saved the yearbook,” she asserts. “We wouldn’t have a yearbook right now if we hadn’t gone to video in 1989.”
In the 20 years since then, Lont has seen many changes at Mason. The on-campus community has grown by leaps and bounds, new structures have gone up and international awareness of the institution has risen, she observes.
What makes Mason the school it is, though, has remained constant, according to Lont.
“I came to Mason in 1984, and part of the reason I stayed was the diversity,” she says. “I could walk across campus and hear different languages spoken, and I still can. It was great in ’84, and it’s great in 2010. In 1984, though, no one knew what George Mason was. Now they know us.”