A project to build a website for Off-Campus Housing Affairs (OCHA) has left a $7,000 hole in the Associated Students of the UW (ASUW) Board of Directors (BOD) budget. Last week, the BOD approved another $1,370 to fix the still-broken site.
The new website is part of a plan to revamp OCHA by advertising more landlord posts and having more students use the site to find places to live and to find information about tenants’ rights. But the current website, which was meant to be completed last spring by a UW design service called UW Creative, is difficult to navigate, OCHA Director Megan Kaase said.
“We basically wanted to use it to really branch out with our organization,” she said. “We wanted to have a lot of students visit it and have a lot of landlords post on it. But right now it’s really sub-par.”
Last year, the BOD allocated $5,000 to OCHA to have UW Creative build a site. ASUW Vice President Desiree Hanssen, who served on the BOD last year as director of community relations, said an ASUW employee kept authorizing more spending for the project without the board’s approval. By the time the BOD found out about the over-expenditures,
OCHA had spent $7,000 on the project — so the board stopped the project, leaving OCHA with a dysfunctional website.
With the current website, students are unable to filter rental listings based on price, and landlords can’t easily edit their posts, Kaase said. In addition, students have a hard time finding tenants’ rights handbooks.
“We have students come in and ask a lot of basic questions,” Kaase said. “So it would be really nice to be able to have a place where students can go look at frequently asked questions and things like that.”
Riley Lee-Card, director of finance and budgeting, said this year’s allotment of money to finish the website would come from leftover money in last year’s special-appropriations budget.
Several board members expressed concern with sending the project back to the organization, given that the organization didn’t complete the project within budget last year. Director of Policy and Procedures Kate Callison said ASUW shouldn’t be giving UW Creative any more business.
“I have some pretty major concerns for what signals we’re sending,” she said.
But Lee-Card said having UW Creative finish up the project is in the best interest of ASUW and OCHA financially, as starting a new website with a new designer would cost more money.
But Student Senate Vice Speaker Sean Wilson, who serves on the BOD as a senate liaison, said fixing the site could potentially cost more than the $1,370 allocated by the board. He suggested that the board ask for a hard-bid contract, which would require that UW Creative finish the website without exceeding the budget.
“If we’re having [UW Creative] do more work, we could end up having a black hole of money,” Wilson said.
Lee-Card said part of the problem with the OCHA website lies in the ASUW technology support’s inability to decipher UW Creative’s HTML coding and fix the site’s bugs. Director of University Affairs Michael Kutz, who is majoring in computer science and engineering, said owning a website that can’t be edited could turn into a liability for the ASUW.
Director of Programming Ryan Perrizo said hiring UW Creative to fix the website would be like “putting a band-aid on the situation.”
“I always like to joke when I code something that I’m going to make it so it’s going to crash, and I’ll have to come back and fix it,” Perrizo said. “I feel like this is a real-life version of my joke.”
Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) Secretary Kristin Hosey, who serves on the BOD as a GPSS liaison, said her organization has had similar problems with the company. She said the company designed a website for GPSS that crashed numerous times.
Given the ASUW and GPSS’ histories with UW Creative, the BOD decided to have the organization fix the site — only if it manages to stay within the $1,370 budget.
* The ASUW legislation this article covers stated UW design company Creative Communication was working on the website, however, this was a case of mistaken identity. UW Creative is actually the company working on the website.
Reach reporter Amelia Dickson at email@example.com. Twitter: @ameliadickson
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