Is It Spring 2005....or Is It Spring 1905?
You've survived to the end of week one, Santa Monica College Spring Semester 2005. Classes are more or less dialed in and time-consuming lines to purchase required texts at the bookstore are behind you. Excited about plunging into what's fun and interesting at Santa Monica College, you apply your own genetically hard-wired Internet savvy to surf SMC's website to discover what's up.
Let's see...fourth category down the homepage, "Student Life and Services," seems a likely place to find answers. Clicking on that, you see four webpage selections listed under "Student Life" - Associated Students, Athletics, Corsair Newspaper, and Student Clubs. You're on the right track it would seem.
But open "Associated Students" and much to your surprise you read, "Enjoy your Summer Break!" (Summer 2004, no less). Huh?
As you continue your quest, almost every page starting from that point gives outdated information.
Only a time machine could give any relevance to what you find, unless the history of academic year 2003-2004 is your goal.
But time machines aren't quite perfected yet. You can't go to the Associated Students webpage today and find the names or pictures of your current A.S. or ICC (Inter-Club Council) leaders. And it is nowhere to be found on the SMC website. The events calendar on that page gives information for January 2004 (although current calendar information may be found further down the main page).
Many pages remain "under construction." The "Athletics" webpage is up-to-date. But "Student Clubs" pulls you back to the past where information was last updated in the fall of 2003. Want to know what clubs existed then? There it is. I wonder how much additionally clubs (of Fall 2004) may have benefited from timely advertisement of their organizations.
Even the "Corsair Newspaper" is a facade of possible information when you open its webpage only to discover further branches to be dead ends. But the Corsair's main vehicle of communication has been and remains timely with weekly print editions, and students are redesigning the new online edition. Today's issue of the Corsair will be online later this week.
I don't know about you, but I have little interest in that exciting earlier era of campus life.
Furthermore, considering that the A.S. has a budget of approximately $215,000 for the academic year of 2004-2005 and could have long ago hired a webmaster, I suspect this failure to supply the needed information makes many unhappy.
So who was and remains responsible for these publicity lapses and why are we experiencing this mess?
I spoke to various members of the Associated Students who offered universal awareness of the problem, but the explanations for the failure to deliver an important source of information to students were ultimately unsatisfying.
One significant contributing factor was that as the Fall 2004 semester began, unexpected vacancies arose on the A.S. board. Geronimo Saldana, who had been elected to the position of A.S. secretary, found himself shouldering the roles of president, vice-president, secretary and others as he scrambled to re-build the board. Furthermore, he worked to re-build the ICC leadership due to vacancies that occurred there as well.
More directly responsible was Jeff Lunjass, who was elected to the position of director of publicity and under whose purview the Associated Students webpage fell. Lacking much webmaster experience, he had the misfortune to select a series of commissioners who said they could solve the content problems, but who apparently never did.
Additional issues that took the attention of the slowly reconstituting A.S. board were issues of shared governance and voter registration projects. Others in positions to know about the dilemma of unfulfilled communication pointed fingers elsewhere, offering further explanations. But all the reasons suggested still miss the point.
I can appreciate that in our productivity-driven society, students keep cranking up ambitions to compete and move ahead. And understanding the issues confronting the A.S. board, there were numerous serious challenges with which to contend, besides the officers' own full academic schedules.
Nonetheless, an important disservice occurred regarding the failure to provide the absent information. It can be argued that much of the missing information came through alternate sources - the weekly Corsair newspaper, for example. But in a world with a paradigm shift towards the Internet as a more reliable and thorough source of news, people in ever-greater numbers are going online to educate themselves.
I think of those students who explored SMC's website and failed to find the missing information. How many of them gave up looking and lost out on possible club involvement or attending a valuable event?
The A.S. directors have a responsibility to insure that students are constantly kept up-to-date on what is going on at SMC. It is one of the highest priorities. These are perilous times when informed consent is scarce due to the compromised buzz-saw through which corporate media shreds and withholds critical data for the masses.
Additionally, we suffer from a presidential regime guilty of classifying more information that any previous administration. It becomes all the more important to take a stand at the local level to insure that people get the information they need, the information they deserve. And this IS the local level.