YUSU criticised by societies for failing to resolve website issues

The lack of an IT Coordinator meant problems with the website were not fixed in time for Results Day

Society chairs have criticised YUSU after problems with the societies section of the website meant that it was not fully updated in time for Results Day, when many freshers use it to research societies after getting their results.

YUSU

An email was sent to all societies at the start of the month informing them of issues with the website which meant that new signatories did not have access to society backpages and students who tried to pay membership online for 2014/ 2015 would actually be paying for membership for 2013/2014.

Societies were told that their old societies would be de-ratified and a new 2013/2014 society would be created for them showing the new information that was provided to YUSU during the ratification process during last term. YUSU promised societies these updates would be made by 14 August.

However, YUSU were unable to fix the website before Results Day, citing the present lack of an IT Coordinator as one of the reasons why. Chris Wall, Student Activities Officer, explained: “As YUSU is currently without an IT Coordinator, the societies backpages have not been able to be manually updated… because it requires specialist knowledge of coding and website development that we are currently without.”

He went on to say: “If I was still a society chair I would be first at the door complaining as I understand how frustrating this must be, which is why I ask trust that we have explored every possible option to get it fixed… Although it would seem easy to get someone in for 15 minutes to fix it, for a few reasons (mainly revolving around data protection law) we are unable to do this.”

A document containing societies’ details and contact information has instead been created and uploaded to the website as a temporary solution. An email sent to societies informing them of this development stated: “Sorry this isn’t perfect, but hopefully it is better than nothing.”

Stuart Maule, Chair of the University of York Green Party, told Nouse: “It’s a shame that the societies at York have been let down by YUSU because of its lack of investment into the website and IT provision, and that new arrivals have been given a poor welcome into student life.

“The high quality and wide variety of societies have missed the key date to be showcased which will most likely put more pressure on societies in Freshers week to promote themselves and we will be seeking additional funding to ensure we can reach all students to show what we can offer.”

One of the Co-Chairs of the newly-ratified Applied Social Science and Social Policy Society, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed, saying: “It is is annoying that we are unable to have much information for freshers who are interested in our society. I remember when I got my results that the first thing I did was check what societies I was going to do.”

YUSU has faced criticism from societies on several occasions. Their management of last year’s Freshers Fair and Refreshers Fair was branded “poor”, with many societies saying they were unhappy with the new bar code system that was designed to make membership payment simpler.

However, some societies feel they have not really been affected by the recent issues with the website. Alex Hackitt-Anwyl, Co-Chair of the Literature Society, told Nouse: “Being unable to access our society’s back pages is a little bit frustrating but this is the time of year when we least need them so I’d much rather they have the problem now than in September.”

Similarly, a Chair of another society, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s unfortunate timing but it seems like they are working hard to handle the situation and I appreciate that they have kept us informed so far.”

According to Wall, who stressed that YUSU “are currently in the process of interviewing for [a new IT Support Coordinator]” the website is expected to be fixed “in time for Freshers Week if not sooner”. He added: “I can only apologise about this problem and promise it will be resolved as soon as it possibly can be.”

9 comments

  1. As the chair of a university society, this was indeed frustrating, and shows a lack of efficiency, professionalism, and forward-planning on YUSU’s part. Being unable to access our backpages made things rather difficult, and the information on the contact sheet (at least for our society) was out of date; unfortunately, an email from YUSU told us the information could not be updated. Under the actual system, if working correctly, it could have been updated there and then, and changes would have been reflected immediately.

    However, advertising on freshers’ pages and at freshers’ fair is expected to account for the majority of our membership, and this fiasco simply spurred us to put more effort into those things, so maybe it’s actually a good thing? ;)

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  2. 17 Aug ’14 at 7:48 pm

    I worked in IT for two years

    I would suggest that YUSU needs to reconsider the way in which it approaches its digital presence. It’s all well and good having a great and fancy website, but an organisation like YUSU must be able to effectively communicate through it at all times. Particularly when there is so much the union has to do, it seems quite ridiculous to me to have a website that requires a single specialist to make any kind of meaningful change.

    There are an abundance of platforms that YUSU could use either in place of or in addition to its current content management system that would enable the officer group – which changes in both composition and technical competency every year thanks to regular elections – to update key sections of the website at any time without the support of a specialist. I for one am baffled why YUSU hasn’t properly considered the way it manages its digital content, and I’m quite certain this is not the first time they’ve been disappointed by their current approach.

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    • On the whole I believe the current Sabb team would agree with you. I certainly agree with the sentiments that our website is woefully outdated and can be difficult to manage on the back end.

      We are currently looking into the development of a new website for these exact reasons.

      However implementing a new system correctly takes time. Time which we didn’t have before results day and we were left stuck in an unfortunate position. We did everything in our power to minimalise the impact and we can only look to the future to make improvements to avoid this kind of situation again.

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      • Chris, please understand that my criticism is more of institutional practices, not how the current sabb team are doing. I appreciate that timing’s have been awkward and admirable efforts have been made to compensate for the problem, particularly from a largely brand new team. My point is more that this has been a systemic issue that reaches across multiple administrations.

        Go back to 2010 and you will find YUSU’s own research saying that 4 in 5 students felt improvements could be made to the website, including accessibility and relevance of information. YUSU documents show concerns about the website from its initial launch half a decade ago; and if you go back before that, the 2007 – 8 annual report notes that YUSU has a long record of problematic IT management, especially with regards to its website. We are not talking about a recent development or a website starting to show its age – we are talking about a problem that YUSU as an institution identified years ago and has consistently failed to deal with.

        I sincerely hope that the sabbatical officers won’t just be thinking about what will work best here and now, but what will work best next year too – and the year after that, and the year after that. The fact of the matter is this is not the first failing in this area arising from a lack of foresight and long-term planning. I’m sure that when the team in 2009/10 launched the new website they felt it was an improvement and a well thought out decision, but clearly they did not consider what would happen half a decade down the line when their IT personnel changed. The same thing cannot happen again or we will merely delay the next set of problems to another day, not prevent it.

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        • I didn’t take it as a criticism, my point was to try to reassure you that we are doing exactly what you state, and looking at how we can ensure the longevity of the website over the course of time.

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  3. But instigating a wordpress or a drupal bases system would mean that student reps would actually be able to access and change things without SU managers..

    Can’t be having that.

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  4. Quite frankly this is an embarrassment to the university.

    Changing the website should be a simple process. Use the old website normally. Build the new one. Test the new one. Schedule a day for ‘maintenance’ warn website users, now update the website seamlessly. New website works. Everyone is happy and in the loop.

    P.S finding the society pages to a fresher isn’t directly obvious. Instead of being under activities it should have its own section on the navigation bar.

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  5. YUSU ARE A JOKE LOL. NONE OF US KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING. JUST A HUGE CIRCLE JERK. OOPS JUST CAME ON CASS BROWNS FAT ASS LOL

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