Useful new site

HereAndNow is dead. Long live NU Link. Beginning Saturday, people trying to reach the Web site will be transferred to http://asg.northwestern.edu/nulink, a new page that will to replace HereAndNow as the online hub of campus activity. Although it’s best not to fix what isn’t broken, this looks like a welcome change.

At first glance, NU Link seems complex compared with HereAndNow’s simple design. Everything is shiny and new, like switching from a blocky early ’90s television remote to one of those DIRECTV Star Trek phasers. But fear of the unknown fades as the realization hits that everything from HereAndNow is on NU Link, only more efficiently organized.

The page design is dominated by a calendar displaying the next three days of NU events. It’s a bold and useful change, one that might be useful for the average student who has never had such a centralized and accessible online calendar before. Other new features on NU Link include a “notepad” – a box for writing and saving text – and the ability for student group leaders to log in and post events for the public. Users can also customize NU Link to only show certain types of events or those sponsored by specific groups.

Both HereAndNow and NU Link are products of ASG. For now, only groups recognized by Associated Student Government can post on the calendar. But ASG communications director Robbie Stein and technology director Kevin Palms said they will have a process in place by next week to assess new groups and ultimately allow everyone from Greek leaders to dorm presidents to post events. Their tentative approach stems from a fear of site misuse. After all, “Party at Sherman and Foster” should be scribbled on a dorm white board, not on NU Link’s calender.

Whether the shift from HereAndNow will suffer a WebMail-like disaster remains to be seen, but NU Link features that rare combination of user friendliness and innovation that’s nice to see.

An Inside Job

Once again, the ASG election ballot is filled with mostly uncontested races. President is the only competitive office, with two candidates. For the positions of executive vice president, student services vice president and academic vice president, the official candidates each face only one real opponent: “No confidence.”

Sadly, no Associated Student Government newcomers are in the running. EVP candidate Matt Bogusz currently leads the Executive Committee and works as liaison to on-campus student groups. Nate West, who is running for SSVP, has served as a senator for two years. Anna Xu, the AVP candidate, has been on the Academic Committee since her freshman year. Jonathan Webber, one of two presidential candidates, facilitates ASG meetings as the speaker of the Senate. Even his opponent Julian Hill, the least ASG-integrated of the five, has worked on several committees.

Northwestern student government has become a sheltered club, inaccessible to most students. In order to run for ASG office, students had to submit an application including a petition with at least 200 signatures by March 30, only three days after it was sent over the ASG listserv on March 27.

Additionally, the application may not have appeared on HereAndNow until days later. Some people reported that the information disappeared from the Web site when ASG added a link to NU Link, HereAndNow’s replacement site. After the lightning-quick deadline passed, election commissioner Eric Parker did not extend it, telling The Daily on Tuesday, “No one requested an extension.”

Maybe so, but giving potential NU student leaders all of three days to petition 200 people is not exactly an encouraging prospect.

If the leaders of ASG want to be a relevant force – and if they want students to care enough to vote next week – they need to let the student body in their club. The U.S. Congress is famous for insulating itself from the masses. Hopefully, ASG will allow the rest of the student body a foot in the door.