‘Fixing’ Laurier through texts
Soon students will have more than just the ‘Dear Life’ column to profess campus concerns. The Fix My Laurier (FML) text-to-Wilfrid Laurier University Students Union system is a new initiative launched by the university affairs committee and spearheaded by vice presidents Steve Franchetto and Sean Madden for students to advocate for campus issues.
The concept itself is a legacy project originally conceived by former board members Kory Preston and Griffin Carpenter. The cost of the system has been budgeted at under $2,000 and the university affairs committee aims to have the system working by September with trial runs beginning in August.
The aim of the project is to empower the university affairs committee, connecting WLUSU with student concerns.
“It’s an inexpensive way to get people’s direct input as it happens,” WLUSU president Nick Gibson said. “If you’re in your class, and the Internet sucks—even though it’s something that we already know about – we can hear about it.”
“If I can say, one that this [feedback is about] an advocacy issue; two you’re not the only one experiencing it and three we hear you and can do something about it, then it allows [students] to self-advocate and allows them to identify issues we can advocate, issues like the Internet on campus,” said Madden.
“The overwhelming benefit of such a system outweighs some of the challenges,” added Gibson.
Gibson mentioned that the system can handle an unlimited amount of texts and that university affairs is preparing to deal with all kinds of comments, “from food services, to residence life, things that aren’t necessarily within the union, the committee would be able to deal with and redirect necessary information.”
Gibson acknowledged that some issues are not under WLUSU jurisdiction but that they would still like to know about them.
“[The system] is both a short term and a long term thing: when you have students at the beginning of their academic careers, [FML is] something that will allow students to immediately feel like they’re engaged,” he noted. “That may seem symbolic but I think it’s a very important thing, that notion of input legitimacy. Within our student union it is something that has lacked a lot over the last few years.”
The system itself is a combination of a web applet and an input number which students will be texting to.
The data will be displayed in intervals on the WLUSU website to show students exactly what issues are at the forefront and which ones university affairs is working on.
“All information collected is confidential and anonymous,” said Madden. “We have to abide by a code of ethics.”
“The cool thing about this program is that it gives us the data in a very easy to manipulate format, we will be able to say, ‘here is a snapshot of your concerns.’ We will be able to see when Internet concerns peak, when study space concerns peak and that will be really helpful there,” Madden added. “We should also be able to respond to concerns in a Twitter-type fashion, including links to relevant research or demonstrations.”
Both external and internal affairs volunteers will be working on this system to distribute the information and process incoming data. The system is a project run within WLUSU by university affairs committee’s internal and external affairs volunteers, additionally assisted by Phil Champagne, and enabled by the funding of the WLUSU board of directors.