This year, the Student Activities staff surprised students with a new web platform, called OrgSync, for organization members to share their various clubs' information and events with the student body in one location.
In August, student organization officers at the University of Richmond received an email from Anthony Crenshaw, assistant director for student organizations and leadership development, which informed them they needed to register their organization on the new Student Activities website, OrgSync. The site opened to students on August 20th.
One of those leaders, Jennifer Johnson, co-president of Active Minds and UR Body, UR Choice, said the message had been unexpected because none of the student leaders had heard of this site before. "I was surprised, but also kind of delighted," she said. "I don't expect that organization from Student Activities usually."
The site served her groups' purposes well, Johnson said, because both her organizations dealt with controversial issues. Many students feel uncomfortable approaching a table or asking questions about Active Minds or UR Body, UR Choice in public, but OrgSync allows them to join more impersonally and still receive all the necessary information, she said.
Johnson said OrgSync required less organization than past sites because the groups' documents, member lists and calendars were all in one place. For Johnson and other students who are officers in more than one organization, OrgSync simplifies those responsiblities, she said.
The site's goal is to organize all student organizations under one system, according to Crenshaw's email. OrgSync offers profile pages for each of the more than 170 clubs on campus, Crenshaw said in the email. The pages allow club members to upload photos and videos, make contact books, record dues, post event calendars, and offer an overview of the organization's purpose.
Crenshaw runs a page for Student Activities called The Spiders' Web, which all students automatically become members of when they join OrgSync.
Although the staff says the site aims to simplify the process of finding an organization and learning how to become involved on campus, Johnson and Natalie Clark, co-president of Alpha Phi Omega, said they were concerned about the difficulty of navigating the new site.
Johnson said she was uncertain whether she could transition to OrgSync yet, but she believed the effort would be worthwhile. Learning to use the site more than other clubs also wouldn't guarantee a higher membership, she said, because many students who joined a page wouldn't become active members.
Clark said the new site was less efficient than using older methods, such as Google Mail or Blackboard, for organizing information because the site was too complicated. "There are too many notifications and account settings," Clark said. OrgSync reminded her of Facebook, and she said people technologically challenged might struggle and would not use the site to its full potential.
To confront the difficulty of learning to use a new website, Student Activities staff offered three required OrgSync training sessions for club officers. The sessions were designed to help students maximize their OrgSync experience by teaching them how to use the available content, according to The Spiders' Web page.
Clark and Johnson both said the training was beneficial and effective, but Clark said the new site still seemed like overkill. Older organizations had found alternative methods that they had grown comfortable using before OrgSync and that the new site was not something the university needed because it would only benefit brand new organizations, she said.
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APO officers preferred using Blackboard because the entire student body was already signed up on Blackboard, and the interface was less complicated, Clark said. "I think to make OrgSync work for us, we are going to have to put a lot of time and effort into it."
Any organization that wanted to get the word out about its purpose would do so with or without OrgSync, Clark said.
Clark agreed with Johnson that Student Activities had kept OrgSync a secret from the club leaders. Student Activities should have surveyed the students before launching the program, she said, because she and others might have spoken out against it and deterred Student Activities from what she said had been a bad investment.
When Crenshaw is available to comment, this story will be updated.
Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at email@example.com
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