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USG launches IdeaScale for student feedback

By Kate Smith
On January 26, 2012

  • USG President Sam Tracy speaks at a USG meeting during the Fall 2011 semester. Bill Pritchard/The Daily Campus

In an effort to effectively use technology to capture student body opinion, USG has introduced UConn IdeaScale, a Reddit-like website enabling students to quickly and easily voice their suggestions for campus improvement.

The service will cost roughly $1,000 a year and will come out of USG's Executive Committee budget.

"I think the new site is going to make USG more in-touch with the wants and needs of the student body than ever before," said USG President Sam Tracy. "It's going to make USG much more responsive to students, and that's great because serving the student body is what we're here for."

IdeaScale, a private company hired by USG, is a website through which students can post ideas to improve student life. After an idea is posted, other users can comment, agree or disagree. Ideas that receive more "agrees" rise to the top. Major corporations like Microsoft, ING, Subaru and Xerox also use IdeaScale.

Getting in touch with popular student opinion has been a constant struggle for USG. For senators who represent constituencies like CLAS, accurately voicing student opinion for such large, diverse groups can be a difficult task. Though USG hosts Straight from the Source and its meetings are open, very few students are able to attend.

"Very few students make it… simply because they either don't have time to make them, or because they don't know they exist," said Nina Hunter, USG's communications director. "But many of them have great ideas about how we can improve the university."

USG hopes that the introduction of IdeaScale will change this. Since IdeaScale relies on idea becoming "popular," it gives senators an easy resource for gauging the general interest of various improvement ideas as opposed to just the students who are passionate enough to attend a meeting.

IdeaScale UConn has been in the works since September of last year, using Northeastern University's implementation of the program as a model. However, coding for the site set back the unveiling until last week.

According to senator Ethan Senack, the site's popularity "has absolutely exploded." As of Thursday evening, the site had already received 41 unique ideas, 45 comments, polled 1510 votes and trafficked 294 users. These numbers have already surpassed Northeastern University's IdeaScale site, which only received 28 unique ideas in its eight months of service.

Some of the more popular ideas for UConn were renovating the gym, getting a Red Box on campus and several ideas for cutting electricity use, with feedback scores hovering around 60.

Not all of the propositions have been well-received, however. Ideas like building another library, firing bus drivers who are late, and installing a miniature golf course have found themselves at the bottom of the idea pile, with feedback scores less than negative 20.

Hunter said that most advertising for IdeaScale has targeted UConn's resident population, making use of the Daily Digest and dining hall table tents. However, in the coming weeks, she expects a larger publicity effort including advertisements on shuttle buses and in The Daily Campus.

"Hopefully these will allow us to reach a larger audience," Hunter said. "Especially those commuter students."

To show they're listening, Tracy has decided to write an entry in his presidential blog for each idea that exceeds a feedback score of 50 to either explain how the idea could be implemented or how the university has already taken steps toward implementing a similar proposal. 

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