Sarah Krusleski" />
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Sunday, October 1, 2023


UH needs new way to send messages

UH’s Frontier Fiesta annually attempts to bring the entire school together in a huge celebration with barbecue, concert performances and rides. A tactical error by event planners at this year’s celebration, however, may have alienated a significant portion of the student body.

While setting up the event, a crew had to block off two parking lots for the entire week leading up to the event. The closing of these lots affected commuters and car owners residing in the nearby campus apartments at Cougar Place.

Officials at a school as diverse as UH are faced with the challenge of adequately communicating messages to students who may not use computers every day or who may not live on campus. Finding additional channels through which to communicate with off-campus students is crucial.

Unfortunately, Frontier Fiesta’s event planners did not account for off-campus students when relaying messages about the closed parking lots.

UH Parking and Transportation Services Director Robert Browand said in an e-mail that an alert about the parking lot closures was posted on the Frontier Fiesta and Campus Activities Web sites, and that a press release was sent to The Daily Cougar on March 15. Browand also said notices were placed at the parking lots during spring break when class was not in session.

While these notices could have worked with students who live on campus and stayed here during the break, they probably had little effect on students who commute.

Perhaps putting the notices up before spring break, when class was still in session, would have allowed more commuters to see the signs. According to Browand, however, the timing could not have been helped.

“The committee revealed their final event layout and space requirements to us at a meeting on March 5, 2010,” Browand said in the e-mail. “PTS then waited almost a week (March 11) before we were sent the event map showing the areas to be blocked and their intended uses. We then developed our notification material and started advertizing the closures on March 15.”

Campus coordinators who seek to unite students in events such as Frontier Fiesta must acknowledge that students with full-time jobs and families form a significant part of the student body. These students lack the free time to keep track of campus nightlife; not every student is interested in Twitter or Facebook and few of those who do use social media networks use them to follow what’s going on with Parking and Transportation Services.

The decision to wait until the Wednesday during spring break to put the parking lot notices up did not effectively reach commuting students who had no reason to visit campus during their time off.

One could argue that because Frontier Fiesta is an annual campus tradition, people should have expected the lots to be closed. Browand did say that the same parking lots are closed every year to prepare for the event.

New students could not have been expected to know about the closing of the lots, however, and commuters who have to leave campus for work and families may not have remembered this once-a-year occurrence.

Essentially, the coordinators assumed these channels of communication would be sufficient enough to reach all students who commute, are involved in campus life enough to visit campus during a class-free period, follow administration policies using social media technology or live in Cougar Place.

There are more direct ways to contact students without alienating commuters; this communication gap can be rectified in the coming years.

Other organizations at the University, such as the campus police department, utilize a mass e-mail system to directly contact the thousands of students at UH, so there is no reason why Frontier Fiesta’s coordinators could not have taken the time to arrange a similar method to directly contact all students.

According to a press release on UH’s Web site, the Parking and Transportation Services department allowed economy permit holders to use any lot around campus between March 7 and April 1; it should be commended for doing so.

But that does not excuse the lack of communication to commuters, many of whom may have arrived on campus, found out that their regular spots were taken and proceeded to compete with other economy permit holders for the remaining spaces.

While Frontier Fiesta is an important tradition that unites the campus for a weekend of cook-offs and fun games, future coordinators should be sure to contact commuters through more effective channels.

Sarah Krusleski is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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