CollegiateLink: The Weakest Link

An Events Flyerboard on the CollegiateLink home screen

Gretchen Wieners: “That is so fetch.”
Regina George: “Stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen.”

Mean Girls (2004)

Poor Gretchen Wieners. We’ve all been on the creative side of a trend that failed to materialize. Whether something as small as a nickname that doesn’t stick, or something as large as a product that doesn’t sell, there are always potential cultural phenomena that fizzle before they’ve taken off. Whether we’re talking about the XFL or Pepsi Blue, the graveyard of over-hyped products that ultimately failed to appeal to the masses stretches far and wide.

There seem to be a lot of changes at Connecticut College lately, most of them successful in their implementation. However, there is one cultural shift that seems stuck in the mud. I’m talking about our new clubs and organizations network called CollegiateLink. It’s not that CollegiateLink isn’t ever going to “happen,” but for the time being, it really isn’t.

In trying to assess the effectiveness of CollegiateLink, we need to ask ourselves: is it necessary? By necessary I mean, does it fill a glaring deficiency in the way in which we join clubs, register events and advertise for those events? That question is not easily answered.

I don’t know much about economics, but I do know that the marketplace works through supply and demand. With CollegiateLink up and running, the supply side of the equation has been taken care of. For many of us in various clubs and organizations, we have been encouraged to try it out. In doing so, we have been asked to “demand” it, if you will.

I myself decided to participate.

I logged in, requested membership in all of the clubs which I affiliate with, joined my dorm’s page and listed myself as a Housefellow, and then… nothing happened.

Pinned to the digital bulletin board were flyers I had already seen on real bulletin boards around campus. In order to see an event a club had planned, I had to browse the directory, then go to that organization’s page to search for any events they had listed.

I saw member lists of the clubs I’m a part of, but I already knew they were members from attending meetings. I realized how little I actually understood about why I was using CollegiateLink (and I’ve been trained to use it!)

I could not figure out what I was gaining from the experience. As I looked at the lists of my peers on pages such as Hillel and Larrabee, I felt as though they were there for the same reasons I was, simply because someone told them to be.

It was then and there that I realized the central problem with the demand side of the equation: it simply doesn’t exist at the current time. The problem could be with the structure of the site or it could be the way in which it has been advertised, but it is likely some combination of the two.

The SAC Representative of the Class of 2012, Alex Schwartzburg, sees the problem as largely related to the structure of the network.
He said, “It would take away the duty my friend has to his band to put posters up. It would take away the small talk that you need to do before an event. [These interactions], if nowhere else, should exist on a college campus.”

There are certainly others among our student body who feel the same way Schwartzburg does. They believe not only that CollegiateLink is not merely disruptive to our current social structure, but also that at its heart, it’s un-collegiate. To some degree, I agree with them.

At the current time, we’re just fine with our dorm bulletin boards, our Facebook groups and our personalized e-mails from club presidents (even when they occasionally forget).

We aren’t ready to change those aspects of our club participation.

However, Schwartzburg makes it clear that, as a member of SAC, he does recognize potential benefits to certain aspects of CollegiateLink.
He mentions the advantages of being able to “stay in your room to submit a request to reserve a room for an event.” This idea of registering and booking events might be the future of CollegiateLink, even if organizational networking and event advertising is not.

In truth, this convenience will not make CollegiateLink a failure, but a success. It is common in the world of trends for the initial, groundbreaking product of a company to succumb to unseen flaws while a later, simplified version of the same model from another company becomes a total hit (just look at MySpace and Facebook). We should not rule out the possibility that CollegiateLink might need to adjust both its mission and its format in order to be successful.

The other missing ingredient from CollegiateLink’s gradual introduction to the community has been publicity. When the college switched to our new feisty, sporty camel last April, the new logo rode the old happy, gangly camel off the bookstore shelves and halfway to Providence before the cheering crowd had even cleared the unveiling ceremony. And while the upperclassmen have mixed feelings about the new camel, you see it on sweatshirts and shorts everywhere. That is because the campaign to make it the default athletic logo for our college was speedy, widespread and aggressive.

I would be willing to bet that among the four classes the logo is probably most popular among the freshmen. Why would I guess this? Because it is the only logo they’ve ever known here.

As for CollegiateLink, I have met very few current freshmen who know what it is or what it does. This represents a great failure of advertising and a sign that CollegiateLink has moved backward rather than forward this semester. As is the case with the new camel logo, the impression of CollegiateLink among the older members of our student body may never be fully corrected. However, if CollegiateLink is introduced to incoming freshmen during their orientation, before classes start and clubs have their first meetings, it seems highly unlikely that it will continue to be ignored as a resource among our future club members and presidents.

If we accept that CollegiateLink might need to simplify and clarify its mission, if we aggressively and positively promote it and if it is introduced to new members of our community as they matriculate, CollegiateLink can be a success and can make our student involvement experiences better. And, I think we can all agree that that would just be so, well, fetch.