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CAC Debuts New Software To Assign Space to Groups

By Kirtana Raja

The new virtual computer system implemented by the Campus Activities Complex to assign event space to student groups has encountered difficulties in its recent debut.

Under the new system, created in March 2005, students sign up for virtual computer accounts and enter their information into a CAC computer instead of submitting space preferences by paper. In its first attempt, this new system has proven to be a lengthier process for students, but eventually a system may be implemented where students no longer have to rush to the CAC office, and instead can enter information via their own computers.

The information requested on the form is the same as last year’s, as is the first-come, first-served policy; however, CAC Director Phillip J. Walsh said that “the menu the program provides allows you to fit events in better.” To ensure that the system is secure, Walsh said that CAC has partnered with Information Systems and Technology.

As in past years, student reservation signatories for each official student group went to the CAC office (W20-500) on Nov. 28 and waited their turn in line to use the new virtual reservation system. CAC personnel were on hand from the time when the books opened at 8 a.m. to help the new process run as smoothly as possible.

Students used virtual accounts to enter requests, a process that the CAC expected to take around five minutes per group. Instead, some groups took up to 25 minutes to input the data, said Jennifer B. Smith, CAC Manager of Event Planning. Smith said this increased time was likely because both students and CAC personnel needed more time to adjust to the new system.

Walsh started handing out traditional information forms to waiting students around 10:15 a.m., when it became clear that progress was too slow. The CAC personnel, who have access to all virtual student accounts, collected these forms and entered the data into the virtual system themselves.

Smith said that although the actual scheduling process was more time consuming, the results of the room reservations, done by newer, better computer software, were known within a week’s time, as opposed to a month in previous years.

The CAC is attempting to correct the problems with slowness this year by enlisting help from the CAC advisory board, which is made up of representatives from student groups.

After this year’s trial run, both Walsh and Smith expressed hopes that they would be able to use the advisory board’s input to improve next year’s opening of the books. Walsh said the only thing he would have done differently would be to have handed out traditional scheduling forms earlier to waiting students. “However, when testing the usability of such a new system, you need to give it some time to operate on its own,” Walsh said.

Walsh said that he expects that since the CAC now has the technology, it will not be long before they are able to turn the virtual scheduling system into a web-based program that students could sign up for using personal computers or laptops.

“We are trying to make the point that scheduling is something that shouldn’t require you to come up to the CAC office every time you need to plan an event,” Smith said.