In September 2010, the University Park Undergraduate Association debuted an updated website. The website featured a forum for students to discuss issues, a list of office hours, weekly meeting minutes and an event calendar, among other things. The goal of this new website was to get students more involved.
“They can comment on all the legislation that’s posted right on the site,” primary designer Zach Johnston said. “It’s not even just commenting, but you can hold discussions.
The UPUA members get to hear what students have to say, even if they can’t make it to the meeting.”
Two years later, UPUA is revisiting this goal. The UPUA representatives voted last week to spend $2,400 on redesigning a website that’s only two years old to make it more “interactive” and increase communication between the student body and UPUA. Representatives said the new website would be simpler for both UPUA and its constituents.
In theory, it isn’t a bad step, but allocating $2,400 toward this just seems unnecessary, especially after since it was done so recently.
There are other improvements in the community to be made, and a website just doesn’t seem like it needs to be a top priority right now.
If students, after the changes in 2010, are still not actively using this website, then chances are they won’t use it more after this redesign. There are other ways to better engage with the student body.
Students react to concrete changes.
Students react to legislation that they can relate to. Students react to tangible actions that affect their everyday life. A website does only so much to engage students. But, if students recognize positive initiatives that UPUA is doing, that may be a way to get students to interact more.
Perhaps the representatives in UPUA should go out to areas around campus and survey some of the community, finding out how many of them have actually visited the website and how many times.
This feedback could give them some perspective on whether a website would really be beneficial or widely used. It’s also worth noting that UPUA is spending $1,100 less on on this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, than they are on the redesign of their website.
Instead of dishing out more than $2,000, these representatives should focus less on projects related to UPUA — like a website or a pizza partnership that has UPUA’s logo on it — and more on legislation that can go to helping students’ lives and the Penn State community.