Thursday, December 20, 2007

[Stud] Study

While Noah tackles issues of educational philosophy and ideology in the public forum, I thought I would devote a few vents to those little practical problems which, if fixed, could make the YU Experience just a bit more pleasant.

If ever there was a giant that The YU Vent had to fell, this giant is the communication problem. A deluge of unwanted emails, overcluttered bulletin boards, and ignored signs are just some of symptoms of the terrible disease that is the YU informational infrastructure.

I'll begin with a story: One evening, as I sat down to my ritual YU-email sorting (read: deleting) I came across the following message from an undergraduate sent out to the [ystud] list:

"I urge all of you to not support Rudy Guiliani, a man more authoritarian than Hillary herself, a man who will lie and bend to get whatever power he seeks."

Enraged, I immediately composed a response, sending it to this same [ystud] list:

> Shame on you, the YU administration for allowing this kind of garbage to
> happen on the ystud. What will happen when you actually have something
> important to say? When I asked a friend if he saw this letter, he
> responded that he no longer reads this type of email, probabably due to
> emails like this one and today's two (two!) emails advertising a clothing
> sale.

Needless to say, my email was rejected by the ystud moderator. "Sorry - no personal messages." I am not writing this post to let you know about my personal frustrations with a rude undergrad and an inconsistent moderator (he/she has since apologized), but to prove a larger point: there is no system. This represents issues much bigger than an email list, but the problems with ystud are fairly typical in the following two categories:

Externally: Were the rules of ystuds ever laid down and presented to the student body? Are there rules for ystuds? Who do I go to with complaints about the ystuds?

Internally: it's ridiculously inefficient.

I don't mean to say that having to spend six minutes checking my emails each night instead of three is the root of all evil. This is just one example among many where instituting a simple system could solve an annoying problem. I'll describe one possible system, though I can think of several which would fit the bill see (for more, see here).

Similar to other email lists, there should be the option of subscribing and unsubscribing to different types of emails. Say I want to receive the emails about Morg Mart but not about Pre-Law meetings, or vice versa. A simple menu on the giving a student the option of which emails he or she would like to receive would provide this service. This system set up, each club president or society advisor will be in charge of their individual group's email list, choosing when to send out emails. Now I can know when Morg Mart is open and I don't have to delete six Pre-Law emails a week. Problem solved! If I want to find out about colloquiums, special SOY shiurim, shabbat schedule, career development, political science newsletters, or anything else, I'll just sign up for their respective lists. Obviously, should a president/vice president/dean deem that they have something to send to the entire college/all undergrads/all yp students etc., they will be able to do so (props to Dean Sugarman for his emails about dates for dropping classes and stuff).

Where would such a menu be? On a new and improved YU website. Yes, the pictures of the beautiful NYC vistas and pretty Stern girls are very nice, but under this facade lies a labyrinthine network of red herrings, trapdoors, and outdated information. A website should be the nexus of any good information network, and as far as we're concerned, YU doesn't have one. I hope to write more about this in the future, but for now suffice it to say that a website would be a great way to solve both types of problems mentioned above. Or maybe they should just send out an email...

[Postscript: I recently came across the following comment: "Blogs/facebook groups/notes accomplish nothing. Words are not action." While this may or may not be true, I certainly agree that action is helpful. I think we should all take upon ourselves to send a polite, well-worded response to any and all who use the ystud excessively or inappropiately, requesting that he/she exercise better judgement in the future. So that if indeed this post does "accomplish nothing," at least we will have begun to treat the symptoms.]

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