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New Messaging System Accommodates Freshmen, Formitories

By Frank Dabek
Associate News Editor

The Freshman Messaging System, in its first year of operation, appears to be an effective solution to the problem of providing a means of communication with freshmen while not burdening dormitory desks with extra work.

FMS has been installed in nine out of 10 dormitories. Only Bexley Hall does not have an FMS terminal. Kyle A. Jamieson '00, FMS coordinator, said that there were "security problems with the computer" at Bexley and that the Residence and Orientation Week Committee decided to pull the computer. Bexley desk could not be reached for comment.

In the other dormitories, the system has been fantastic, said Matthew S. Debergalis '99, who also worked on the system. There have been "a few hiccups" but the system is running well.

"We've seen a lot more use than we expected," Debergalis said. FMS has been "much more effective than the phone system" which was used last year, he said.

Ashesh P. Shah '98, president of the Dormitory Council, said "I think [FMS] fulfills our needs" while allowing the administration to contact freshmen. He called the system a "good compromise" but said, "dorms don't like the idea of a messaging or tracking system."

FMS not to be used as a rush tool

The system has been used by both the R/O Committee and by independent living groups. Jamieson said that the R/O Committee has sent over 30 messages to freshmen, mostly from parents. ILGs are also able to send messages to freshmen but are only able to send a limited number of messages and are not able send mass mailings to all freshmen, Jamieson said.

Jorge F. Rodriguez '98, Interfraternity Council rush chair, said that the limit was currently 10 to 15 messages per day.

"Some places have reached the limit," Debergalis said.

We are "discouraging the use of FMS as a rush tool," Jamieson said. FMS would be more useful to ILGs as a logistical tool rather than to entice freshmen, he said.

FMS is a "totally separate" system from the Clearinghouse system used by ILGs to track freshmen, Jamieson said. However, the two systems do work together in some ways. For instance, if a freshman checks his messages, ILGs will be notified that the freshmen is in a dormitory but will not know which one, according to Jamieson.

The R/O Committee, the Campus Police, and approved groups can tell which dormitory the freshmen checked messages from. "ILGs cannot track freshmen" through FMS Jamieson said. FMS "is just a supplement [It's] not designed for ILGs," he said.

"I think it's having a positive effect [on IFC rush]," Rodriguez said. He said that houses which had previously reported a slow rush "have seen significant improvements by using FMS."

Even so, rush chairs seemed unimpressed by FMS's potential to aid their efforts to recruit freshmen.

"It's been pretty ineffectual," said Jeff G. Riechbach '99, rush chair for Beta Theta Pi.

Chi Phi Rush Chair Todd S. Harrison '98 said, "We really haven't used [FMS]."

System remains secure

There are no known security breaches, Debergalis said. Jamieson said that there was an attempt to break into the FMS system in Senior House. Someone there attempted to log in as a freshmen by trying all possible passwords but gave up before hitting the correct password. FMS passwords are based on a freshman's ID number.

There were also concerns that ILGs might obtain access to FMS in order to hide freshmen by making them appear to be on campus as substantiated by a false login, or to produce false rush violations by logging in as freshmen while that freshmen was at another fraternity. In the latter case, it might appear that the other fraternity had neglected to check the freshmen out of Clearinghouse properly.

"FMS guards against that" possibility Jamieson said. "If FSILGs are asking for IDs, they shouldn't be," Debergalis said.

Freshmen unaware of system

Dormitory desk workers, who last year copied phone messages, seemed happy with the new system. "It's pretty convenient for us," said Benjamin X. Hidalgo '97, a desk worker at Baker House.

Freshmen were mixed on the system. Three did not even know that the system existed or what purpose the terminals at dormitory desks served.

"I know a lot of freshmen who don't even know what it is," said Susan M. Buchman '01. "They went to a lot of trouble for something that could have been done" more easily.

"It's good in theory, but in practice no one loves me enough to send me a message," said Miriam S. Betnun '01.

Nancy T. Dinh '01, who had received messages, said that the system was "really convenient."