Students, faculty weigh in on effectiveness of ‘Campus Pulse’

By Anna Jolliffe

Samantha Webber/Collegian

It can be hard for students to keep their thumb on the pulse of a campus as big as the University of Massachusetts, but the University’s official channel of communication, Campus Pulse, aims to do just that.

Operated by UMass’ Student Activities and Involvement group, Campus Pulse is billed as a “gateway to hundreds of campus activities, campus offices and more than 200 student organizations.”

Geared toward providing Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) with both a way to advertise and manage their organizations, Director of Student Activities and Involvement Erin Donnally Drake said the platform is “multi-faceted.”

While the ways in which each RSO conducts its advertising often varies, many groups look to primarily connect with students through widely used social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. For many student groups, Campus Pulse is somewhat irrelevant regarding student outreach with just a handful of RSOs advertising events through the website’s home page bulletin board. Regular posters include the UMass meditation group, the Center for Health Promotion and the University Programming Council, among others.

Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Larry Goldbaum said the UMass meditation group advertises all of its events on Campus Pulse, and later, it also posts event photos onto the site.

Goldbaum said he believed the site had its drawbacks, however.

“If there’s no (Campus Pulse advertisement), then the only way a student would come across the event listing is if they go directly to a particular organization’s Campus Pulse page, or search the ‘events’ tab for a particular event, such as ‘meditation,’” he said.

There are some RSOs that find a balance between Campus Pulse and other communication tools to reach out to students.

Net Impact President Trista Ristvedt said her RSO, which according to its website consists of students seeking to make positive changes socially, environmentally and economically through business practices, “has used Campus Pulse as a way to communicate larger events that are open to the larger student body.” However, as far as relaying information about plans for meetings and events with members, Ristvedt believes there are easier ways to do that.

“Since our target membership group is fairly specific, we are able to target communications to them (through other channels) much more easily than Campus Pulse allows,” she said.

Some RSOs do not utilize Campus Pulse’s advertising tool at all.

Grayson/Field House Council President Daphne Chen said she does not use Campus Pulse  to advertise about upcoming events.

“I don’t think that we’ve ever been told about using our Campus Pulse page” Chen said. “To inform students of upcoming meetings and events, I post information to the public and to members through Facebook.”

Drake believes that Campus Pulse is misunderstood as purely an advertising medium,

“Campus Pulse is broader than simply a communication tool,” Drake said, adding that in addition to advertising, “it provides some internal management pieces, too.” Such management tools include a documents page “for every single RSO” to “upload a logistical plan for their event so that the next officers can have access to that,” she said.

In terms of Facebook being a popular communication tool for many RSOs, Drake believes that “there are some pieces that are important about Campus Pulse that Facebook doesn’t have,” such as being something prospective students could use to browse the list of all the offered student clubs.

“You can’t go on Facebook and find that list of all of the student RSOs on campus,” Drake said. “You can’t go on Facebook and see all of the events that RSOs are holding. You have to be invited to those events. On Campus Pulse you could go on and look and see all of the different events that RSOs are holding.”

However, there is  vocal disapproval for the system among some RSOs.

“Compared to email, I consider (Campus Pulse) an ineffective method of communication, not necessarily due to its own failings, but simply because most people check email more often than Campus Pulse,” said Michael Savage, vice president of UMass’ mock trial team.

“Campus Pulse is useless. UMass needs to pull the plug on it and embrace the power of other social media sites,” said Anthony Broding, president of the UMass chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.

Despite student support for reform, Drake believes that Campus Pulse is here to stay – for now.

“I do anticipate us keeping it, but we’re totally open to feedback and hearing from students,” Drake said. “We’re also totally open to doing more training and providing RSOs with more information about the useful tools that Campus Pulse has for them.”

Anna Jolliffe can be reached at [email protected]