By Andrew N. Williams
INDIANA -- Amber N. Sherman began co-advising the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association in the fall of 2010. During her tenure, she said she has seen the SGA website improve.
"The website has actually come a long way since 2010," said Sherman, assistant director of student life, conduct and engagement at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in a March 29 email. "It just isn't maintained and/or updated as frequently as it should be."
In 2010, the SGA website was embedded within the Student Cooperative Association website. The university does not provide web-space for student organizations, Sherman said.
For the 2010-2011 academic year, the student co-op hired The Sunset Stripe Co., a small firm in Baltimore, to redesign the co-op website. But the SGA website was not redesigned, could not be updated and remained in a different format embedded within the co-op website, Sherman said.
"It was the 2010-2011 academic year, and the website contained information from 2009-2010," said Sherman.
Before the 2011-2012 academic year, the SGA attempted to create a new website using WordPress, a free blogging tool and publishing platform. WordPress would allow SGA members to update and maintain their website at no cost. But the effort failed, Sherman said.
Instead, the SGA followed the co-op's lead. It, too, hired Sunset Stripe to maintain student-government website, Sherman said. The price: $1,500.
But it is the responsibility of SGA's public relations chair to feed updates to Sunset Stripe, Sherman said. Several SGA members can log in and add content to a Google calendar for student-government events.
But as of May 31, the calendar had not been updated since the website's launch in August 2011. Nine months later, the website had no meeting minutes for academic year 2011-2012, no student news, and no listings of events or meetings.
Compared to some other schools in the western region of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the IUP SGA website falls short. Clarion University, Slippery Rock University and Shippensburg University all have well-maintained student-government websites.
The three sites contain updated minutes, a calendar or list of meetings and events, and contact information for executive members. The Shippensburg student government website includes photos of school events and activities.
However, other PaSSHE schools also neglect their SGA websites. Edinboro University and California University of Pennsylvania student government websites list members and provide membership information. Neither site contains minutes or a calendar of future meetings.
IUP SGA is represented in various social networks. A Facebook page, "IUP's Student Concerns," and a Twitter page, @IUPStudentGov, are supposed to be regularly maintained by SGA's Internal Affairs Committee, Sherman said. As of May 4, the Facebook page had 49 "likes"; the Twitter page had eight followers.
The 57 followers of IUP student government's social networking sites are among 15,132 enrolled students, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the student population.
SGA elections on March 28-29 brought new leadership and a new commitment to the organization's website. IUP SGA President-elect Taylor R. Billman said he recognizes the importance of a well maintained website.
"It needs to be maintained at least monthly during the school year," said Billman via an April 4 message on Facebook. "I plan to enforce this on the person who I assign to the PR chair. It is important that the website reflect the current activities of the SGA."
Andrew N. Williams, a junior majoring in journalism at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Ligonier.
SIDEBAR: For more info
For more information on this story, please contact the following sources:
Amber N. Sherman
Student Life, Student Conduct and Engagement
307 Pratt Hall, 201 Pratt Drive
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, Pa. 15701
Taylor R. Billman
Student Government Association