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Let Democracy Prevail

The past week, I received a troubling email. I was told by the CS counselor at WSU that my site will no longer be used as the CS site. Frankly, I am a little bummed. For the moment, it works, but not for long. The WSU Dean was not pleased at all, and had some words with the CS department Chair. Apparently, the Dean wants to see the site closely resemble the COAST sites that represent WSU. So the CS department Chair has to comply. Or does he?

First off, why else have web pages at a university, if not to increase the students learning, participation and interest in the school? In other words, are not school web sites to benefit the student? Sure, there are administration sites, but even indirectly, they are for the student.

I saw a need in the department, and decided to take the bull by the horns, and do something about it. The web page designed at the time was horrible. There was next to no information on the page, and there was no reason why a student would want to visit it. So, I created a proposal for the CS department, got approval, and got to work. I spent literally hundreds of hours designing the page. Six weeks before the deadline, my laptop hard drive crashed, and I lost everything. Panicked, I downloaded the Drupal CMS, and begin redesigning a theme to fit the needs of the school. The end result, if I do say so myself, turned out great. The faculty was pleased as are many of the students. The Dean, however, is not.

When I began work on the site, I had a number of goals in mind. First, I wanted to have a centralized place for all the CS faculty with their information. I wanted to integrate tightly graduation information, course and degree information, scholaraships, advising hours, and more. I wanted the site to be informational also, so I put up HOWTOs covering downloading and installing software from the MSDNAA, remote desktop into Athena and using SSH with Icarus. I had in mind students getting more involved with local clubs and organizations from the school and community. Lastly, I wanted a frontline streamlined page with computer news. I have been able to achieve all those goals. I have set out for more, however, I doubt I will see those into realization due to the recent facism of the Dean.

Because I designed the site with the student in mind, I think that the students should be able to make the choice, rather than the Dean. After all, don't we live in a Democratic country? Are not decisions made by the people and for the people? So, to make my voice heard, and the voices of many students, I put up a poll about which site is better. My site that I designed with Drupal, or the COAST site?

I have a few gripes about the COAST sites. First, it's the same across the board. Every COAST site are exact replicas of each other. There is no originality, quality or uniqueness to any of the pages. Second, because the pages are just flat HTML, many features are lacking, such as an RSS feed, polls, MySQL server integration, and dynamic pages, such as searching, email integration and scheduling. Thirdly, the CS page has never been a COAST site, so I don't see the urge or necessity to make it one now. Plus the fact that many pages exist under the Weber.edu domain that are not COAST sites (Math, Botany, Chemistry, Geography, Geosciences, Microbiology, IS&T and Foreign Languages just to name a few). If we are going to change one, we better change them all, which is just silly.

In my opinion, the COAST site should exist as a template for departments who do not want to take the time to design a page. With the COAST templates, setting up a page is easy with "fill in the blank" web publishing. However, if a department wants to break away from the COAST implementation, they should be encouraged to do so. Not allowing them do is not becoming of democracy in the least. There is no given information anywhere that I can find, except for the identity marks page, that tells about how deparment pages should be designed.

In a nutshell, I am disappointed in my school. Aside from many other valid concerns that I have, I feel this one cuts the deepest, as I feel rejected as a web developer. More and more, I wonder why I am attending WSU, and not the UofU or Utah State or some other university. The politics and bureaucracy that swell within the school administration go deep and spread like a bad virus. Unfortunately, it is the students who take the hit.

I hope that students will make their voice heard about which page they like best. If it is the COAST site, then so be it, but I think the majority of students will vote for the redesigned site that I built. As such, I hope that the Dean will listen to what the students want. After all, it is the students who should be able to decide. As mentioned before, are not the purpose of school sites to benefit the students?

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Kuyaedz using Firefox 1.5.0.1 on Ubuntu | April 23, 2006 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I took a look at some of the other department sites and all I can say is 'holy crap'. Your page, I think, matches the COAST theme more than any other department. If he is getting on you to change the theme I REALLY hope he's getting on those departments too.

    It does sound like you are in line to transfer your credits & tuition elsewhere. This isn't the first time I've read about your CS Department or school acting like idiots.

    I hope the Dean will listen if you bring him adequate information pointing to keeping your current layout. It's been my experience though that educators are, basically, very unhappy people that didn't amount to much more & want to exert what little power they have on whoever they can. Good luck.

  2. Steve using Mozilla Compatible 5.0 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | April 24, 2006 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    School websites are among the most hideous in the world, where they should be the most functional and user-friendly, and certainly set an example of appealing to the LCD in some cases. Good luck, man.

  3. Aaron using Firefox 1.5.0.2 on GNU/Linux | April 29, 2006 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Thanks. Unfortunately, the Dean and the Chair both told me to take down the site. Frankly, I tend to look into things maybe more than I should. It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that someone somewhere was disappointed in the site, complained loud enough, and got their way. Now I realize that I volunteered, but I was left completely out of the loop on this, until the decision was already made. I never did have 100% support from all the faculty. Oh well.

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