When student apathy showed no signs of improving, University of
Maine Association of Graduate Students President Hugo Volkaert
decided to do something about it. Volkaert contacted Computing and
Data Processing Services and asked for a newsgroup to be created
for the UMaine local Usenet feed.
The newsgroup, Volkaert said, is a forum for graduate students
to discuss issues that affect them. The newsgroup is also a
bulletin board for minutes of AGS meetings, grant information and
other items of interest to graduate students.
"In a way it's making representatives obsolete," Volkaert
James Harrod, president of the class of 1996 at Skidmore
College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said he has been posting
information on his school's electronic bulletin board system in an
effort to generate interest in student government.
"I feel that this posting is often a very effective way to
reach disenfranchised students who often feel either alienated by
SGA or see it as a social elite clique which is simply concerned
with the inflation of our own egos," Harrod said.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Director of Student
Services Matthew Gregory said his student government puts its
senate bills on-line and is in the midst of putting course syllabi
on-line so students can compare professors who teach the same
Each day about 30 messages are sent to a complaint and
suggestion bulletin board, Gregory said. Out of 26,000 students
Tennessee's BBS covers, Gregory estimates there are about 100
"Student reaction has been very positive," Gregory said.
"Students are happy that they are able to have direct input to SGA
without having to come up to the office."
Not only are computers being used by student governments to
communicate with their constituents, they are also being used by
governments to communicate with each other.
Anthony Rosati is the information exchange coordinator and a
member of the board of directors of the National Association of
Graduate-Professional Students, which represents about half a
million graduate and professional students. Rosati said that since
its inception in 1986, the NAGPS has encouraged its members to use
the Internet, a world-wide network of networks, to exchange
information and ideas.
The association maintains an electronic mail reflector site,
which receives e-mail and sends copies to more than 300
subscribers. The association also maintains a file transfer site
where Internet users can copy files about graduate and professional
students to their computers. Rosati said NAGPS will have a Gopher
server next month. Developed at the University of Minnesota, Gopher
is a program that allows Internet users to "tunnel" across the
Internet without having to remember computer addresses.
But while computers may make it easier for student governments
to tackle apathy, they must still overcome some students' fears of
Harrod said, "I find that electronic information is a very
effective way of stirring interest and advertising things. But due
to computer phobia, it does not always reach a majority of the
Volkaert said, "Not everybody's listening and that's the
Computers may make it easier and quicker to inform students,
but not everyone has an account to access to e-mail, he said.
Newsletters are still the only way to guarantee access to all
students. But it's expensive.
Volkaert said he hopes that in the future more students will
learn to use electronic mail and get involved.
Still, Gregory thinks putting information on-line will work out
in the long run.
"In this age of students not being able to catch up with each
other, I find this project very worthwhile," he said.
This story originally appeared in Feb. 25, 1994, edition of The Maine Campus. Copyright 1994, Ryan R. Robbins.