EDITORIAL: University Communications should bear the blame for cmich.edu redesign mess
“Where do I …? How do we …? Now the entire site is down? Seriously?”
Students and faculty are frustrated with the relaunch of cmich.edu, and it doesn’t help matters that it’s just a few weeks before finals, a time of peak use for the site as students register for fall classes, prepare for exams, and in many cases, prepare to graduate.
When Central Michigan University announced plans to unveil its revamped, easier-to-use information hub, it was supposed to be the end of an ongoing issue of clutter and confusion.
But while all that has allegedly been fixed, the changes have brought on another bout of confusion; learning how to navigate a site during a time of the year where most students are looking for outlets to the stress and anxiety brought on by final exams. In addition to cramming to memorize one last mnemonic device, it’s going to take an extra 10 minutes just to remember how to find our way to Blackboard.
Students might be in trouble, but millenials tend to understand information technology intuitively; say a small prayer for the professors attempting to find their gradebooks on a system they’ve never seen before, a system complex enough to require tutorial videos. In short, certainly in terms of timing, the relaunch has been a fiasco.
But this type of decision-making isn’t surprising.
The way the website was released showed both arrogance and incompetence, parts of an overall brash attitude demonstrated by CMU administration this academic year. If one were to point a finger in the direction such questionable decision making has originated from most often, a good place to start would be West Hall, home of University Communications.
This year, when University Communications meddled in anything, it seemed bad things happened for CMU.
Take a look at the website. University Communications has been partnering with several different entities, including the Office of Information Technology and the hired, Ohio-based Blue Chip Consulting Group.
The result: Disastrous. With a seemingly amateur design, CMU could easily be the online laughing-stock of universities for years to come, with the $550,000 price tag providing a generous helping of salt for both members of the CMU family and outsiders to rub in.
An informal poll concerning user happiness with the new site posted on Central Michigan Life’s Facebook wall yielded immediate, irritated results. Of the 130 votes recorded in the first five hours by Facebook users, 120 chose “it’s awful!,” while six selected “I feel about the same as I did before,” and four decided “It’s great!” best summed up their feelings.
Of course the polling methodology is childishly simplistic and the results far from scientific, but the outcome is hardly encouraging; it’s an embarrassment.
But the list of questionable decision-making keeps coming. When CMU hid a $10 million allocation to the Events Center from the public, Renee Walker, associate vice president of University Communications, went as far to say that the information had in fact been released to the public because documents detailing funding were given to the state legislature.
Other public gaffes include University President George Ross’ speech during the Faculty Association strike, where several students were kept out of the library for an event in which Ross went on to refer to the FA dispute as a matter for “grown-ups,” thus giving a big slap in the face to the students who pay his salary.
What’s worse is University Communications still seems to think perfect silence will somehow instill a belief in students, faculty, alumni and community members that things are indeed perfect at CMU, and have been very reluctant to admit anything about any dissent, going as far as to dismiss the nearly 20 votes of no confidence against the current administration.
The website is yet another indication that when there is a job that needs to be done wrong, University Communications is the right office to call.
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