By Nathan Ress
At the start of the spring 2017 semester, Canisius College rolled out its new “Today@Canisius” blog system, as per the Email Reduction Act of last year. The blog would ideally be a one-stop location for all campus club event information. However, the implementation has been somewhat less than stellar and has caused some stir among students and club leaders.
Undergraduate Student Association President Elias Ayoub sees the program as not quite living up to its original intention. “The vision was to have a single consolidated email,” Ayoub said. While this can be the case – ideally an email would come out everyday linking to the blog and giving an overview of the additions – the daily emails have been far and few between, with only five emails having been sent out since February 2.
Ayoub also cites some lack of communication between the initial proposers of the system and its developers. This may have caused the system that has come to fruition to be somewhat off the mark of the original goal. Despite this, however, Ayoub adds, “I don’t believe that end goal is lost.”
Neil Savoy, a Student Engagement Graduate Assistant working in Student Life, addressed the main issue as a change in culture that may have come somewhat quickly for students. “Students are so accustomed to checking their emails,” he said, “that they are slow to respond to the new methods. Students may see the lack of emails as a lack of any sort of information or progress by the system at all.”
Savoy explained that an email is only sent out to students if there is new content posted to the blog. “The email is ultimately to direct students to the blog,” he said.
They system works as follows: A club leader makes a post to the blog advertising their club’s event. The post is reviewed by Student Life and approved based on a set of guidelines (mainly ensuring that it contains no lewd or vulgar content). Once the day’s updates have been approved, an email is composed by MailChimp, an outside email marketing service that gathers all the club advertisements into one message. This message is then distributed by Student Life to all undergraduate students.
With this system in mind, Savoy urges students not to depend on the email for their information. The idea was to reduce emails in the first place, and this has been done by putting all advertisements in one place on the blog. Savoy encourages students to check the blog at any time of day, the same as they would check Twitter or D2L. “The blog itself is a stable link,” Savoy said.
With this new system, Savoy and Student Life are trying to change the culture of how students receive their information. Though there has been some general pushback, said Savoy, “This is an interaction we expect students to learn over time.” They recognize that this is a process, and there will certainly be some kinks to overcome, but with time Savoy is confident that this system can be implemented as effective and efficient for students.
“It’s definitely an adjustment,” said Kate Anticoli, Vice President of Programming. However, she added, “At its core it’s a good system, idea, and solution.”
Savoy added that Student Life plans to “rethink the accessability to make it as effective as possible.”
President Ayoub challenged the system to engage students outside of the general core of students who are regularly involved on campus. He sees the blog format as “targeting students who are already involved,” as opposed to reaching out to students who may need the information. For example, only a student already in a club will actively seek out that club’s blog posts. This is in contrast to emails, which Ayoub sees as a more universal way of communicating with students. “Everyone should get pertinent information from clubs,” Ayoub said.
Savoy recognizes this, and said, “The goal is for students to receive as much information as possible” through the Today@Canisius blog. He added that a way for this to happen, and something that is being actively worked on by Student Life, is adding a Today@Canisius link on the Canisius portal. This would allow all students to be aware of the blog and have access to it at all times, in a similar way to D2L or a student’s Canisius email account.
Furthermore, Savoy recognizes that the blog is entirely dependant on student participation and submissions from club leaders. He urges students to check the blog often and club leaders to send any and all submissions as often as possible. Savoy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He posits that with student cooperation and time, Today@Canisius can become an integral and beneficial part of the Canisius community.
This entire scenario is overshadowed by the departure of Beth Crvelin, Assistant Director of Student Life, as of February 2017. Crvelin was the main figure behind this plan, and her departure has left Student Life scrambling to fill a variety of roles. Neil Savoy is one of three graduate students working to fill these roles, alongside Brandon Pietron and Nicole D’Agostino. Savoy confirmed that applicants are being reviewed to replace Crvelin and that Student Life plans to have the position filled by the end of the semester. He recognizes that the timing of the move was unfortunate, but urges that he and his colleagues are doing all they can to run things smoothly in the interim.