Section: archive

SAO Spends $40k on New Website

By Marika Garland

Using funds raised through the Student Activities Fee, the Student Activities Office spent $40,000 on a three-year contract with OrgSync, a website designed to manage student organizations.

Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Christina Mastrangelo said she recommended the system because it offers a more easily navigable alternative to Community, the website previously used at Kenyon.

“When I got to Kenyon [in July 2010], I was honestly disappointed with the Community system, and its palette was not user-friendly, and so that’s what prompted me to start looking at … other options similar to Community,” Mastrangelo said. She heard positive feedback about OrgSync from Denison University and Ohio Wesleyan University at a Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) conference.

Some students at John Carroll University, however, are not fans of OrgSync. In an editorial, the staff of The Carroll News called it “excessive when taking into account the fact that current sites such as Facebook and Twitter already exist as networking tools for many organizations.”

In addition, the Associated Engineering Student Body (AESB) at California State University Long Beach unanimously voted to oppose a resolution to install OrgSync because of its cost, according to The Daily 49er.

For Kenyon, the yearly cost of OrgSync is $12,000, which is a $3,000 increase from the $9,000 yearly fee for Community, according to Mastrangelo. The $40,000 fee the College has already paid includes three years of service, start-up fees, security software and training, which will occur this Saturday, Sept.17.

“I would say [this situation] is rough,” Business and Finance Committee (BFC) Co-Chair Tyler Furste ’12 said. “Spending the $40,000 on this software is something that came at a time unfortunately when the amount of funds that people are requesting has just shot through the roof.”

Like funds for student organizations, the money to purchase OrgSync services came from the Student Activities Fee, which is allocated by the BFC. Each Kenyon student, except those studying abroad, pays $270 per year toward this fee. Last year, both the BFC and Student Council approved the proposal to enter into a contract with OrgSync. “Part of the Student Council is obviously being in the best interest of the organizations,” Mastrangelo said.

The Student Activities Fee also covers the Mount Vernon Shuttle, the College’s New York Times subscription, funds for class councils and all funds allocated to student organizations. “A lot of times when there is a major software program we do fund that through our IT [information technology] funds,” President S. Georgia Nugent said.

Mastrangelo, however, said, “[OrgSync] is funded by Student Council and the Student Activities Fee since it is so directly related to the student organizations they approve and their management.”

Neither Mastrangelo nor Student Council polled the student body to learn of student opinions on switching to OrgSync and spending an additional $3,000 of student activities funds each year, however.

Furste was studying abroad last year when the BFC agreed to fund OrgSync, and thus did not play a role in the approval, but he said he defended the decision. “It’s expensive – surprisingly expensive – but I think it’s worth it,” he said. “Anyone who’s used Community, the old system, knows that it was bad and we needed to get something new.”

Mastrangelo said she received feedback from students before signing a contract with OrgSync. “I had anecdotal conversations with the students I knew used Community, and the overwhelming response was that they hated it.”

OrgSync’s implementation has come at the same time as a proposed increase of $30 per year in the Student Activities Fee, bringing the fee to $300 per student. On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Student Council sent an email to the student body asking students to vote on this issue. The email stated that an increase in the fee was necessary because student organizations are not receiving the funds they request. Last semester, the BFC allocated only 37 percent of funds that student organizations requested, according to the email. The cost of OrgSync is now decreasing the availability of these funds, which, according to Student Council were already insufficient.

In addition, Student Council has cut the hours of the Mount Vernon Shuttle on a trial basis. During the trial period, the shuttle will no longer run on Mondays. If this cut remains in place, it will save the BFC $3,000 per year, according to Furste. This $3,000 in savings is equal to the additional cost of OrgSync per year as compared with Community.

“We went with the three-year plan because there was a multi-year discount,” Mastrangelo said. “In addition, properly transitioning to the system in one year and determining whether or not it is good fit would be unrealistic.”

Mastrangelo said OrgSync is worth the additional money because of the features it offers that Community does not. OrgSync allows leaders of student organizations to use and create forms, photo galleries, to-do lists and videos. “It’s kind of like Facebook but for organizations,” she said. With this new system, student organizations will no longer have to create their own websites because OrgSync profiles can translate into external websites.

In addition, whenever a student organization adds a campus-wide event to its calendar on OrgSync, the calendar on the Kenyon website will automatically be updated as well, which is a feature not available on Community, according to Mastrangelo. “We’re really excited about that because I think it’s really nice to have that process streamlined a little bit,” she said.

“The treasury is probably going to be the biggest feature for those that request funding,” Mastrangelo added. OrgSync includes a budget request system that will eliminate the previous system, which involved Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets. This new system will allow the BFC to instantaneously see budget requests as student organizations make them, and these organizations will be able to see the results of their requests sooner than they could with the old system.

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