Student organizations doubt OrgSync’s communication tools

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Students Against Sexual Assault Vice President Laura Zillman uses OrgSync, a new online program that allows student organizations to keep track of their finances and events.

Updated: Sept. 10, 2015 at 1:20 p.m.

GW’s new online platform for student groups isn’t syncing up with some student leaders.

Student leaders will receive training on how to use OrgSync, the University’s new online system to track finances and plan events, this weekend. The program aims to quell technical challenges some student organization leaders said they’ve faced as they try to get their organizations started during the first few weeks of the academic year.

OrgSync offers a calendar feature, a messaging system, a way to manage financial accounts and access to dozens of online forms. And while student organizations can decide for themselves the extent to which they want to use OrgSync, they will have to use the system to request funding from the Student Association.

But some student leaders said they’re skeptical that using OrgSync will be an effective way to communicate with all of the members of their organization. Wes Merrill, president of GW’s Club Swim team, said he is concerned that some team members will miss out on important information if details are only posted on OrgSync.

“As far as OrgSync as a communication tool, we haven’t found that effective. I think we’re pretty set with Facebook and email just because they’re ubiquitous,” Merrill said. “Even if a small segment of our swimming population doesn’t subscribe to OrgSync, doesn’t log on, doesn’t sign up for it, then it really doesn’t serve a purpose.”

But Merrill added that his group has seen some benefits. For example, he used OrgSync to obtain the paperwork needed to use GW vans to drive to swim meets.

Alyssa Paren, the general manager of GWTV, said she doesn’t see her organization taking advantage of OrgSync’s communication options.

“We already have a system that works really well,” she said of the organization’s Facebook page and several listservs. “Our organization has multiple shows, which each have their own listservs, so it’s a lot easier to use email than OrgSync.”

OrgSync was partially funded through the SA, a move some representatives at the time criticized.

Laura Zillman, vice president of Students Against Sexual Assault, said she sees the messaging feature on OrgSync as “unnecessary” because most of SASA’s communication to members is done through SASA’s Facebook page.

“The CSE keeps sending all these emails with videos and links and downloads and PDFs,” she said. “I appreciate that they’re putting them together, but OrgSync seems like just one more thing to keep on top of.”

Zillman added that one benefit she sees of using OrgSync is that she can view the group’s budget, and can track the group’s expenses and see updates to finances as soon as they happen. She said it’s an improvement from previous years, when the only way to find out how much money SASA had was to contact the CSE and wait for a reply.

Maya Weinstein, president of Phi Sigma Sigma, has also found the system beneficial for booking travel and filling out forms, but said that the University could have done a better job explaining to students how OrgSync would be implemented.

“When we submitted our org registrations, they could have said that this was going be a thing in the future and that we weren’t just filling out a form,” she said. “I made an account in the spring, but we weren’t told that this was something they’d actually want us to use in the future.”

Some student organizations, like the College Democrats, still have a separate online website for their group, and the Panhellenic Association revamped their website over the summer. Roughly 450 colleges across the world, including one of GW’s peer schools, Boston University, use OrgSync to run their student organizations, according to the software’s website.

Nancy Mannebach, the chair of the SA Senate’s finance committee, said OrgSync helps to speed up the process for groups requesting funds. She said that 12 student organizations have submitted requests through OrgSync for co-sponsorship from the SA that were reviewed by the finance committee since the beginning of the school year, and about 15 more student organization co-sponsorship requests submitted through OrgSync are waiting review.

Mannebach added that she and the other members of the finance committee have reached out to more than 450 student organizations via email to offer help with filling out budgets and using OrgSync. She said the finance committee has met with about 50 organizations in person and spoken to 20 organizations via email to help troubleshoot budget issues on OrgSync.

She said she gets an immediate notification on her phone and through her email whenever a student organization submits a budget request, which means that students can withdraw the money quickly rather than having to wait for paperwork to be processed by the CSE.

Mannebach said the confusion around OrgSync is just “a barrier that needs to be crossed,” but that the best thing for students to do is play around with the system and ask lots of questions.

“It’s the same as anything that changes. [Students] just need time to adapt,” she said. “In two years, this will be amazing. No one will think twice about using it.”

Anne Graham, assistant director of student involvement for the Center for Student Engagement, said each block of student organization leadership training this weekend will have one session dedicated to OrgSync, where each organization and their adviser will review how to use it.

Starting September 17, the Center for Student Engagement will also hold hour-long OrgSync training sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, Graham said. She added that switching to OrgSync came from students requesting more effective tools to organize their groups.

“We understand that there is a learning curve with any new system and are committed to helping students learn OrgSync and make the most of its wide array of tools,” Graham said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported in a photo caption that Laura Zillman is the co-president of SASA. She is vice president. We regret this error.

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