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Univ website needs drastic upgrade

Published: September 19, 2014
Section: Opinions


There is tremendous anxiety when a young person is consumed by a life-changing event, one of the most common of these being the move into college. Some students take solace in the fact that their new home will hold their hand through the angst-inducing process of transition. A school’s webpage can provide much-needed stress relief for the new member, and Brandeis’ website is no exception to that rule. While perusing the site, I have stumbled across maps, activities, course requirements and pretty much anything I could want to know as an incoming student with questions.

But what happens if the information I receive is incorrect? The sad fact of the matter is, Brandeis’ website, although providing so much information, has pages that are outdated. You don’t think just by a cursory glance that you’ll stumble upon errors; rather, one must perform a few clicks to get to pages that could lead a potential student astray. For instance, consider the following:

On the Brandeis Orientation FAQ page, it states: “The available meal plans include 21 meals per week, 14 meals per week and $20 in points for the semester, 10 meals per week and $525 in points for the semester, and 100 meals for the semester and $650 in points for the semester.” (http://www.brandeis.edu/orientation/faq.html)

See anything wrong with this picture? Suppose I am a new student enrolling in the class of 2018. If one of the reasons I am choosing Brandeis is for its food, although that seems like a ludicrous statement, I might be set on the 21 meals per week. I am startled and upset when I proceed to sign up for my meal plan after picking Brandeis over any other possible destination to discover that that option is no longer available, and neither is the 10 meal and 525 points plan. A feeling of betrayal ensues as I am forced to pick the unlimited meal plan, and regret my decision.

But the fun doesn’t end there. “The [Experiential Learning and Teaching] initiative was coordinated by a committee of faculty and staff members who specialize in specific areas of experiential learning. The committee is chaired by Adam Jaffe, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.” (http://www.brandeis.edu/experientiallearning/about/historyandrationale.html)

This last sentence is all well and good until one realizes, through no help by the Brandeis webpage, that the actual dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is Susan Birren. Blunders like this run rampant through all of Brandeis’ pages, except the page dealing with admissions. Through my snooping I discovered that it is all up to date, almost painfully so. This begs the question: Does Brandeis care more about appealing to its prospective students instead of keeping their web pages updated for current students and new admits? Is the admissions page the only page that matters to Brandeis? Buoying the negative answer to this question are the design flaws on the rest of Brandeis’ web pages; the text, colors and layout are drastically different than Brandeis’ admissions page, which looks cleaner and more vibrant.

Not only do various errors cause confusion for incoming students, current students can also be affected negatively, as if an underwhelming website isn’t enough. Take this last example from the Brandeis Concert Series page, which I think is truly demonstrative of what misinformation can do: “WORLD MUSIC: TRIO DA KALI Saturday, March 1, 8:00 p.m.
 (pre-concert lecture: 7:00 p.m.).” (http://www.brandeis.edu/arts/concerts/Spring%202014/Trio%20Da%20Kali%20.html)

The disconcerting thing about this is that it already happened, last semester. Forget the theoretical scenario with the befuddled first year; think about me. Say I make myself look presentable and arrive this upcoming March 1, prepared to witness what I think is going to be a musical extravaganza, only to have my hopes crushed when I realize that the concert happened last semester.

The rest of Brandeis’ pages are not only laden with errors; their aesthetics are vastly underwhelming. And it doesn’t end there—even the graduate school websites, such as the one for the Heller School, look more polished than Brandeis’ basic pages. Clearly, the main university webpages are due for an upgrade since nearly every other possible page has been already. Let’s not wait for some poor student to show up to an event one year late.