Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
[Disclaimer: Yes, we are writing a story about ourselves. No, it is not objective. Sorry.]
When you check your e-mail on Monday, October 20th, Reserved Students Digest will look something like this.
The Reserved Students Digest has long been the responsibility nobody wants, so when Student Council again asked the administration to take it over at the beginning of this year, Dean of Students Jim Larimore came up with an innovative solution.
Larimore asked Gazette Editor Miles Skorpen ’09 if the Gazette would be interested in taking it over, Skorpen said yes, but it would have to change. The request had come at the right time for the Gazette. “Since we’re switching to a new website, it already has built-in forms for submiting announcements, events, and jobs … all we have to do is approve what gets submitted.”
Forms? Yes. Arguably the most radical change will be in how to submit announcements to the RSD. Everyone who wants to submit an announcement will have to fill out a form on the Gazette website, and then Gazette editors will screen for what can go through and what can’t. On the form, people will be able to specify if they want their announcement to run multiple times, instead of having to send an e-mail once every time they want it to run, as now. Starting out, said Skorpen, “there is nothing we’re not going to allow… we would not do it without events.”
Currently a select number of staff and faculty have the right to forward any messages they like, including event advertisements, along, but almost all students who want to post to the list have to go through the Student Council secretary, who consequently becomes inundated by messages, many of which they have to reject because of the now year-long policy not to allow one-shot event advertisements on the RSD, which coincided with the unveiling of the campus calendar.
When Skorpen brought his new vision for the RSD to Student Council, they quickly approved it. Nate Erskine ’10 of Student Council was happy about the change, saying “Student Council recognizes that the current reserved digest system is less than perfect, particularly because administrators and students have different privileges… we hope that this will streamline the process and make it more fair and open.”
But what about that campus calendar? Although day-to-day management of the calendar has now mostly become the responsibility of Communications, Kelly Mueller, Manager of Web Projects in ITS, spoke to us briefly about the state of the calendar. “The goal with the campus calendar was to create a central place where people could advertise their events… it’s been successful in the sense that prior to this there was no central listing of events.”
Mueller reported that there had been around 100,000 page views of the calendar of the month of September, but that these numbers don’t actually show the full dispersal of the information, as there were also “nearly a million syndication requests… whenever the information is called up, like from the student dashboard, the Gazette, or the classics department website, that’s a request.”
She explained that the calendar “is a reliable place to go to check on the time and information about an event… students would delete digests and then not be able to find the information later, and that’s not happening as much now.”
That said, Mueller says that ITS and Communications “don’t have a good sense of what percentage of events are being advertised on the calendar… we know it hasn’t become part of everybody’s work flow, and we come across people who don’t understand what you can and can’t do, who don’t understand that anyone can submit an event.”
The Gazette-run RSD will not be supplanting the calendar, but will rather create a second and potentially less intimidating place for people, especially students, to advertise event information.
Asked about some of the nuts and bolts, Skorpen said “we may be changing the times from 9:44 and 3:44… since events will also be in the Gazette, which comes out in the morning, we may push it later.” Skorpen also wanted people to know that “we will have a plain-text version… everyone will be HTML to start with, but plain text will be opt-in.”
How will the new RSD be received by students? That’s something you’ll have to tell us.