The online directory, a little-known and oft-forgotten feature of the University website that allows students to search for contact information of staff, faculty, and other students, got a facelift earlier this week when Information Technology Services (ITS) launched an enhanced version, available through the University homepage. The new directory provides students with the option to share their room number, home address, and WesCard photo. Names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and class year were already available in the previous version of the online directory, as well as in the print directory.
The changes were originally proposed last fall by the ITS subcommittee of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) and later put into effect by ITS and the Registrar’s Office.
“One thing that came up [on the ITS subcommittee] was a lot of frustration over directory information about students not really being available or easy to find,” said Director of User and Technical Services Karen Warren, who sits on the subcommittee. “The online directory was very limited and since so many students are using online devices or electronics, they don’t look at a print directory.”
Students must opt in to share their information, a measure that Warren said was enacted to protect student privacy. Additionally, the directory can only be accessed via the E-Portfolio when connected to the campus AirWes wireless network, which prevents those without portfolio access from viewing it.
Nonetheless, some students have expressed privacy concerns and skepticism of the new information’s value.
“I just don’t see the need for it,” said Alexia Nazarian ’12. “I can’t think of a situation where you would need to see someone’s photo.”
A satirical Wesleying post published on Sept. 11 describes the directory as a “new and improved” stalker guide, which will allow students to use “WesCard photos […] to let you figure out who’s the hottest chick in class when your professor emails the whole class before the semester begins.”
“[The] piece was kind of funny, but also kind of stupid because you have to opt in [for your information to be visible]” said former WSA Representative and Senior Consultant for the Student Help Desk David Markowitz ’11. “I think once people realize the benefits, they’ll start to opt in.”
Since the directory is now accessible via the E-Portfolio, students will be able to view the information from off-campus, which was not possible through the previous version of the online directory.
ITS also has plans to develop the capability to access the directory through mail programs on cell phones using Google Apps. According to Markowitz, this function is expected to be available by the end of next semester.
“We had to figure out how we could [expand the directory] and appropriately guard student information and allow privacy,” Warren said.