Mustang Daily Staff Report
Four Cal poly engineers are going beyond their majors to address a problem they say exists in one of the campus’ highest entities: Associated Students, Inc (ASI).
Biomedical engineering senior Aaron Rowley is working to develop “Informe,” a website his team hopes will facilitate student discussion about Cal Poly and show topics that are important to students. Once a post reaches a certain threshold of popularity on the website — which Rowley hopes to have ready by ASI elections in April — his team will bring the issue to ASI and demand a response.
“I’ve worked a lot with Student Life and Leadership, and I’ve been a little frustrated in terms of communication between students,” Rowley said. “Even between Student Life and Leadership and ASI, it’s difficult to get a good amount of feedback.”
Rowley envisions “Informe” functioning similarly to Reddit, which brings the day’s most popular online content to millions through an up-vote/down-vote system. He expects new ideas to emerge from “Informe” that students haven’t yet had the opportunity to share with ASI and Cal Poly administrators.
“Students are so busy, it’s kind of unrealistic to have them show up to a board meeting or ask for them to send an email,” Rowley said.
Rowley said there are issues ASI does a good job outreaching to students about, namely the recent semester debate. But he feels these efforts often originate with Cal Poly administrators, then trickle down to students.
After attending an ASI Board of Directors meeting, Rowley said he saw new ideas being met with empty nods from student representatives, but little action.
“I don’t think there’s a particular amount of leverage or pressure you bring when you do that (bring an idea to ASI),” Rowley said. “ASI, all the political process has become a top-down process. ASI says they’re the voice of the students, but they don’t go and ask for a voice until it’s something the higher-ups think about.”
Joe White, a graduate student and member of the “Informe” team, said he sees similar problems with the way student government functions. Those who are close to the process have their ideas heard, he said, but the majority of students are excluded.
That’s why “Informe” aims to target as many students as possible, White said. The four students working on it — computer engineering senior Daniel Hall, computer science freshman Jared Shumway, White and Rowley — want to ensure the platform is not so tech-heavy it leaves people behind.
“We don’t want to make a platform to just exclude another opinion,” White said. “Because that’s just what we’re trying to prevent.”
Reaching untapped student voices is what Rowley says will make “Informe” refreshing to campus — and possibly controversial. He plans to meet with ASI President Katie Morrow soon, but said informal talks with ASI members have brought less-than-positive feedback.
“I do genuinely struggle to see what their issues would be with it,” Rowley said. “I think if it was portrayed as something that was disruptive to their process, that could be seen as a negative to them if it was seen as a distraction in some way.”
Morrow declined to comment on the project Wednesday.
Even if ASI is not supportive of “Informe,” Rowley said the team plans to keep moving forward. The graduating senior has no problems rocking the boat, but is hopeful ASI will be receptive to his idea.
“I think the political process should be a two-way street,” Rowley said. “I think the president should be able to mention things they care about, but I also think the people should be able to say, ‘We care about this and we want you to do something.’”
Sean McMinn contributed to this staff report.