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The Mass Media

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WISER but Not Smarter

It’s early November, which means a few things. Midterms come and go, the weather turns from crisp to chilly, and girls will pack away their P.C.-minded “costumes” and feverishly un-tag those unbecoming Halloween Facebook pictures.

The first week of November also means another scary thing, worse than anything seen, felt or transferred through fluids on Halloween: registering for spring classes using the ironically-named WISER system online at umb.edu.

The WISER system is the soul-stealing format for everything relating to your personal account, which is strange and terrifying considering that the system is user-antagonistic. The fact that most of the academic necessities for students are all centrally located is a good thing about WISER. Checking grades, searching for class schedules, paying bills and registering for classes are all tasks that could potentially be completed on the site. You might need a degree in computer science to use the site. You’ll need to find the link, monitor of an ever-changing password and decipher which digits denote a specific semester – all while doing so in a specific time window. Of course, you won’t be able to earn that computer science degree without ever getting into the padlock-protected Promised Land that is WISER.

Any opinion writer can complain until they’re blue in the pants, but instead, let’s fix the problems currently posed to frustrated students. This web-dependent generation demands more change than a DNC speech, and it is high time they got that change to a successful, working online system.

Since the system is used by everyone on campus, why not give WISER an easy-access tab at the top of the screen, instead of the size-12 font clickable five-letter text option halfway down the right page? The web designer doesn’t even need to remove any of the tabs at the top of the screen to fit WISER in the tabbed bar, as there is a blank space on the right-hand side of the page. I understand the Alumni having an easy-access tab, as well as the obvious tabs like Current Students and Academics. But it says a lot about the school when the Visitors tab (not to confused with the separate Future Students link) takes priority over an easily-accessed link to personal account system for nearly 14,000 current students, faculty and staff.

Speaking of accessibility, is it possible to set the site in a strong enough foundation that it can keep website-like hours instead of restaurant-hours? The majority of college students are online on or past midnight, and many of these WISER-desirers need to use the website late for something school-related. However, any attempt at a late-night log-in is first thwarted by a clock that says the site no longer runs.

Why does it close? I’m sure there is a valid IT-related reason. Is it possible to have a webmaster monitoring the site to keep it running through the night? Sure, the graveyard shift is no fun for any employee in an empty office. But it is less fun for a marathon web-session for sleep-deprived students that need to drop a class, pay a bill or view the final exam schedule. Could they wait until the morning? In some cases, maybe. However, it’s time to face reality. This is the lightning-quick internet, insta-coffee and Easy Mac generation. We need results, and we demand them now! In fact, I can’t wait to get to the next paragraph.

Just for fun, let’s assume you’ve found the link during the website’s business hours. Now all you have to do is log-in. As the long-in screen loads, you smile as you learn you can get into your system in 11 different languages. The smile quickly fades when you realize that you were forced to change your password last week – for security reasons, of course. You use the same password for all 12 online accounts you have: the e-mail, MySpace, personal blog, student e-mail, online newspaper subscriptions to the Mass Media (I might be stretching it here), etc. Now you have 11 of the same password, and one all its own, because WISER wants you to know that it’s different. Suddenly, the 11 language option isn’t so funny. You realize that you have just as good a chance at access in Svenska as in English. The ID Lookup Tool link seems to be saying, “Lookup ID, Tool.”

Suddenly, a miracle: you guessed the right combination of long-lost pet names, numbers, and that all adds up to your password. You’re in the clear. Unless, of course, you are searching for classes. When you decide to input “Spring 2009” for your semester, you are told that this is incorrect. Instead, the WISER system is asking for a 4-digit non sequitur that somehow indicates that you wish to register or find classes in the following semester. What? How does this make sense? My proposal is outlandish: let us type in Spring 2009 instead of a mythical, secret 4-digit code (here’s a hint: the spring code is 1830. You’re welcome).

The WISER system isn’t just more trick than treat in the Halloween season. It’s a trap that haunts us into Christmas, through Spring Break, and back into fall again. It’s time to adapt to a changing, e-demanding culture that dominates the wireless waves at UMB, and it starts with WISER getting wise.