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BeachSync faces criticism, debate

When James Ahumada entered Cal State Long Beach as a freshman in 2006, he noticed a problem: CSULB lacked a central communication system for clubs and organizations, making it harder for students to find and contact groups they might be interested in.

He stayed on the lookout for ways to solve the problem, and shortly after being elected as Associated Students Inc. president in 2010, he found it in BeachSync.

But two years into BeachSync’s launch, several ASI senators have said that reforms are necessary to make the $15,000 per-year program more accessible to students and justify its costs.

BeachSync is CSULB’s chapter of OrgSync, a program that provides a comprehensive network for a school’s organizations to recruit students and post events, files and forms in one place. ASI Communications Coordinator Christina Esparza said she calls it a “one-stop-shop” for campus clubs.

Membership has grown from 3,000 students last year to 11,000 this year. Students are signing up, and Esparza said that BeachSync usage is “on track.”

“Our goal is to make student life easier [and] more enriched, and [BeachSync] is a way of doing that,” Esparza said.

But several ASI senators have called for reforms, saying that student usage is not high or prolific enough and that BeachSync is not living up to its potential.

Reasons for students’ low usage range from confusing functions to the presence of social media sites, such as Facebook, that organizations are already using, which ASI Senator Victoria Chung said often stops the groups she represents from using BeachSync.

“That’s one of the main problems,” Chung said. “They said that they just don’t really use it because they don’t think it’s necessary.”

ASI Senator Jaime Varela sits on the campus relations subcommittee of the University Student Union Board of Trustees, which monitors student BeachSync usage. He said that BeachSync must be carefully watched throughout CSULB’s contract, which ends in July 2014, to see if the costs are worth the benefits.

“It’s important to monitor the situation and see where it’s going,” Varela said. “When the contract is up, we need to assess it and see if it’s necessary.”

Varela, who represents campus Greeks, began using BeachSync this semester to post a Greek community calendar. He said that in the beginning, using the system was difficult, but the process has become easier.

Varela’s experience shows what Esparza said is BeachSync’s major problem: organizations’ reluctance to work with the program. She admits that BeachSync is initially confusing, but after training and some persistence, it becomes simple.

“I think students need to engage in the training we use,” Esparza said. “I was a little frustrated when we started using it. It’s something that you learn as you do it. For me, it’s simple, but that’s because I already know how to use it.”

Ahumada said that BeachSync is not supposed to recreate Facebook’s communicative functions. With features that allow students to find organizations by searching key words, majors and other criteria, BeachSync’s main function is to act as localized network of information, he said, not as a social media site.

It’s communication issues, though, such as difficulty contacting other organizations and students through the site, that many say drive organizations away from BeachSync. While it may be an issue now, Esparza said that one demographic will change this: future students.

“Soon we’re going to have a new generation of freshmen who will want to use [BeachSynch],” she said.

Esparza said that most current students view BeachSync as just another thing to learn and are apprehensive to take the time to become comfortable with it. Requiring incoming students to register for BeachSync during SOAR, an option she said is being investigated by ASI, would lead newcomers to adopting BeachSync as part of their CSULB experience. The more students who are registered, the more likely it is that clubs and organizations will take the time to learn the program, Esparza said.

“That would definitely be helpful. It’s something we’re working on, but it’s a process,” she said.

Whether or not BeachSync is renewed after its contract expires will be the 2014 ASI Senate’s decision. The Senate will vote to either continue or terminate CSULB’s $15,000 per year contract with OrgSync.

It’s a decision that Ahumada said should be made in the context of the difficulty of changing campus culture.

“We all think these things are easy, but it all takes time,” Ahumada said. “When people have done something one way for a long time, it takes time to integrate the system campus-wide.
 

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