UC Launches New Online Initiatives

Undergraduate Council Vice President Eric N. Hysen ’11 is no stranger to working with technology. The computer science major and self-termed “CS nerd” has been making Web sites since he was 10 years old.

“I was a fifth grader that thought it was incredibly cool to be able to put something together in a matter of minutes that people could then access all over,” Hysen says.

To a large extent, it is this same recognition of the wide-reaching capabilities of a Web site that now seems to be driving many of the projects organized by the UC this semester.

Since Hysen and UC President Johnny F. Bowman ’11 took office in December, the Council has introduced four new Web initiatives: UC Rooms, Crimsonlist, Crimson Forum, and a Harvard for Haiti donation site.

The Council also voted in March to fund an online study guide library, but ultimately put the project on hold pending a more thorough investigation of academic and ethical implications, according to Bowman.

Throughout the apparent successes and setbacks, the UC is making an effort to target the Harvard undergraduate community through a noticeably increased Web presence.

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During last November’s UC election, Bowman and Hysen ran on the policy of “Bringing Harvard Online” and identified Hysen’s background in computer science as an advantage that set the pair apart, Hysen says.

As they brainstormed innovative ways to benefit the student body, many ideas seemed conducive to a Web-based approach.

“We were looking for things that the UC could do itself without much administrative approval and that wouldn’t cost that much,” Bowman says. “And we realized one great way to do this was through new online projects.”

For inspiration, the pair looked at student government initiatives at other schools, including Princeton and Yale. Bowman says that these schools appeared “way ahead of Harvard in the online department,” noting that this trend might be the result of structural differences.

“Princeton’s student government has a whole team of online programmers—we have Harvard Computer Society,” he says. “It’s just organized differently.”

Princeton Undergraduate Student Government President Michael Yaroshefsky wrote in an e-mailed statement that Princeton’s USG “is constantly adding new features and upgrading current [applications].”

Last Wednesday, Princeton’s USG launched an “Integrated Course Engine”—referred to as “ICE 2.0”—which will allow users to read course descriptions, access student course reviews, and look at potential classes in a weekly schedule format all on the same site.

Yaroshefsky said the Princeton USG is also currently in the process of assembling several Web applications—including an undergraduate room guide and a textbook exchange site—into a single, accessible hub to be called “TigerApps.”

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