Students are using the University’s student webpage in record numbers to check everything from the events calendar and dining hall menus to weather reports and national news.
Now, at the click of a mouse, they can share their thoughts with the dean of students, ask a question, or find information addressing a concern or a campus rumor.
“One of the most effective ways to communicate with students is through their website,” says Lee Williams, dean of students. And that’s exactly what she is doing.
A new link has been created on the website www.students.uconn.edu called “Ask Lee: The Dean’s Almanac.”
“It’s a place where I can discuss issues that I feel are important, and students can ask whatever questions they might have,” says Williams.
“We know they read what’s there.”
During recent meetings, students said they wanted more dialogue with the administration, but not necessarily via e-mail. In fact, they said, many e-mails from the University are ignored.
“If we sent five e-mails a week to students, they might read those five,” Williams says.
“But if we send 25, they don’t read any of them, unless something in the subject line happens to catch their eye.
Students are flooded with e-mails on a regular basis, and the website is a more efficient way of getting news out to them. We have to reach them where they are.”
The student website, created three years ago, is “powerful,” Williams says.
students use it as their home page, and
visits exceed 45,000 daily, according to
John Barry, director of university
In her first Almanac, Williams mused about crosswalk behavior and discussed the intention of her column: “Many students are frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of communication from the administration,” she wrote.
“And to be honest, we’re often equally frustrated both by our inability to figure out what you want us to know and by our lack of effective strategies for telling you what you want to know.”
She said she would respond to student inquiries regarding “rumors flying around campus” and general updates, and, when she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she will ask the appropriate person to respond.
So far, “Ask Lee” has been a big hit. “I get responses as soon as the column is posted,” Williams says.
“Apparently, students are really reading this.”
Will Melochik, a sophomore majoring in English, uses one of the new computers in the Student Union to view the student home page.
|Photo by Jordan Bender
In another Almanac called “What’s the Deal with Spring Weekend, Anyway?” Williams asked students, “Do you like it? Hate it? Couldn’t care less? Tell me what you think I need to know, and if you were me, what if anything you would do about Spring Weekend. I’ll be on campus during the weekend, so if you think there are any places I should go, to help understand things, or places to avoid, tell me about those too.”
The dean of students’ website is www.dos.uconn.edu.
Students have been pleased with the dean’s column. One student wrote, “It was very entertaining and enjoyable to read. You wrote in such a way that made me, and I’m sure other students, feel comfortable and at ease. I look forward to reading more of your articles.”
Another wrote, “I’m sure you’ve been getting plenty of these letters, but I just wanted to say thank you for opening the lines of communication between the administration and the students. I love knowing what is going on from a reliable source. Keep the updates coming.”
Another student noted that he was “really happy to know that someone up top actually cares.”
One student asked about recycling and whether it really happens at UConn. The University’s Office of Environmental Policy responded to that question.
Another wanted to know why Ryan Refectory is being closed, even though students want it to remain open.
Another question had to do with the heat in the residence halls. Williams had the associate director of residential life respond to that.
If a student has a specific question or a personal academic problem, Williams sends an individual response. Otherwise, responses are posted on her website.
Williams says students are eager to share their interests and concerns with administrators.
“They are really happy when they feel they’ve been listened to. It’s gratifying to know that we’ve found an effective mechanism to reach them.”