All students must be connected

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

It has been my pleasure since 2007 to oversee one of the largest and oldest organizations on campus, The Tartan. I had the opportunity to work with an incomparably hard-working team to consistently deliver a product that we were proud of. The seriousness with which all of them took their work still inspires me; as a staff, we weathered many difficulties and it was their sheer talent and ardent sense of professionalism that kept us going.

Being at the newspaper has given me a keen view of the transitions this university is undergoing. As Carnegie Mellon grows out of an awkward adolescence, it’s fostering an incredibly dynamic environment. The campus that I set foot on in August of 2005 has vanished. Campus involvement is at a record high; there are now more than 200 student organizations, and more students than ever before are taking advantage of opportunities to serve internationally. Even football games have been seeing sharp increases in attendance.

Still, there are vast inadequacies that persist in communication networks on campus.

There are large populations of students who remain unaware of events, policies, and activities that affect them. Despite myriad publications, thousands of posters, millions of e-mails, and dozens of boxes of chalk, students continue to miss out on opportunities they should be aware of.

It is telling that a recent e-mail about the new campus smoking policy, which said nothing that has not been said before on these pages and in the meetings of Student Senate, set off such consternation among students who just seemed not to have been paying attention.

School leaders also miss the boat on key issues. I’ve worked with over a half dozen departments, and while administrators generally seek out the best advice they can find, they’re often unaware of the student experience. It’s not obvious to me that the administration is keeping pace with the pulse of the campus.

I wonder, however, if the blame for this disconnect can be put squarely on the shoulders of students, faculty, or administrators. I said earlier that it seemed like students were not paying attention, but is it really unthinkable that a student burdened down with stressful work does not hear about a policy snaking its way through Student Senate and the President’s Council? What if they missed that issue of The Tartan and their friends didn’t tell them about it?

It’s necessary that we seriously reevaluate how information is passed between groups at this university. Student groups spend thousands of dollars on posters, handouts, and table decorations. Is it working? Administrators put hours into planning programs for students, sometimes without student input and with questionable results. Is that effective?

But what can connect us to each other so that if I have a great piece of information, I can make sure everyone who wants to know gets the memo? We need a new infrastructure.

In 2009, The Tartan is prepared to be a leader in the communications battle. Student Senate Chair Rotimi Abimbola and I have led the charge in creating the Vice President’s Student Advisory Council. The Tartan has worked hard to build its network, but there are countless hours of work ahead of us. We know that we are but one part of a very large communications network.

We cannot call ourselves a wired university until everyone on campus can communicate a message that will be heard by at least a critical mass.