Off-campus housing site gets poor marks

GW’s off-campus housing Web site, established two years ago to replace the office that maintained listings, has failed to meet student expectations, Student Association representatives said.

The new service was initiated by Student and Academic Support Services Communication and Technology as a cost-effective way to provide off-campus housing information. But the Web site, at www.och.gwu.edu, lacks up-to-date information, SA representatives said.

“My concern is that (SASS Comm Tech) created (the Web site) two years ago, and they really have not promoted the Web page and the information provided is out of date,” said SA undergraduate Sen. Alexis Rice (CSAS). “It’s a very good idea, but if it’s not promoted, then (SASS) is not making it work right.”

GW eliminated the off-campus housing office, which cost $30,000 a year to maintain, in favor of the Web site, which is estimated to cost $6,000 a year, said Alex Diacre, SA information systems director.

Diacre said he helped design the Web site last spring after it was handed over to SASS Comm Tech.

After an initial attempt to establish a workable Web site last year, the administration asked the SA to consider taking control of the Web site. But the SA does not have the manpower or funding to run the site, Diacre said.

“First, the SA is a completely volunteer organization,” he said. “We could guarantee that students will work on the site through this year, but we could not in the future.”

In addition, the SA does not have the money to run the Web site, and the Community Living and Learning Center could only guarantee funding this year, Diacre said.

The SA has no plans to maintain the Web site, and Diacre expressed concern about the Web site’s future.

“It has been brushed aside by SASS,” he said. “I would hate to see it brushed aside by the SA. I don’t think the rightful place would be the SA. But we would rather take it over than see it disappear altogether.”

But SASS Comm Tech officials said they try to update information on the Web site as much as possible.

“The phone rings pretty frequently,” said Christina Huszcza, associate director of SASS Comm Tech. “I say we receive between 10 and 12 calls a day.”

Huszcza said the calls include requests for additions and removals from the Web site and said her office updates the information twice a day.

“I know a person who put a listing back in December on the site,” Rice said. “The spot was filled a month ago and it’s still up (on the Web site).

“I’ve talked to international students who come from out of the country and it’s not very helpful for them,” Rice said.

Diacre said he proposed a plan to employ a work-study student to maintain the site through the Marvin Center. He also said listings should be removed after three weeks to prevent outdated information.

Both Diacre and Rice said drastic improvements are vital to the survival of the Web site.

“I don’t think it’s on the level it should be,” Rice said. “Before there was a computerized database, now you’re basically on your own.”

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