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Reish helps develop new Web site

Madeline Buckley | Friday, December 5, 2008

Student body president Bob Reish opened lines of communication between 118 student body presidents of national universities to discuss issues relevant to all schools, such as town and gown relations and smoking bans on campuses, through an online social networking forum.

Reish said the project began when he contacted Princeton’s student government while researching for his campaign last semester and learned that the then-student government vice-president, Josh Weinstein, also had the idea to create a social networking site for student body presidents. The two collaborated to create the site collegegovs.com.

“We only met because of that instance. We both had a shared vision for our student governments,” Reish said. “We started brainstorming and the social networking site started.”

Weinstein, now Princeton’s student government president, said he had considered the idea, but did not formulate plans until he and Reish jointly started the project.

“Bob and I actually both came up with very similar ideas at different times but neither of us moved forward with it until we made the decision to work together on the initiative,” Weinstein said.

The social networking site had several problems initially, Reish said. They did not have a webmaster to manage the site and it was not being utilized by students, he said.

“We had the site, but no one was using it,” he said.

In order to jumpstart usage of the site, Reish and Weinstein moved the discussions from collegegovs.com to Google Groups, an application offered by Google allowing members to create groups for online communication.

Reish said they found contact information for student body presidents, invited them to the group, and now the group members receive e-mails when people post discussion topics.

“In the last few days, we have gotten a crazy amount of hits,” he said. “Now we are starting to see the fruits of our labor.”

Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, University of Wisconsin, Dartmouth College and Clemson University are just a few of the schools involved, Reish said.

Weinstein said the group is already creating discussion, and student leaders are sharing ideas.

“The listserv has already allowed for great communication and is really picking up steam, now with 118 members,” he said.

Reish said he recently used the discussion board in the group to see if other schools have implemented Good Samaritan clauses, which protect students from punishment for alcohol violations when they seek out help for a friend. This recently became an issue because the recent student survey indicated 72.8 percent of students consider possible disciplinary consequences before calling Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) or residence hall staff for help, he said.

“I think [the site] will help us provide a Good Samaritan policy. That’s an issue we are facing now,” he said.

Reish said several study body presidents have detailed their experiences with a Good Samaritan policy.

“[Student body presidents at] high profile colleges are saying, ‘We’ve done it and it’s been successful,'” he said.

Other topics that have been discussed in the online forum are compensation for student government members, sustainability and student activity fees, Reish said.

While the Google Group format is working right now, Reish said he and Weinstein want to eventually move the discourse back to the CollegeGovs Web site.

“It’s literally like trying to solve a business problem,” he said. “We’re using trial and error.”

Reish said he is working to make sure the site continues developing in the future. He said they are trying to expand the scope of the site to include aspects like buddy lists, school profiles and database searches, all of which would only be available to student body presidents.

“Basically we want to be exclusive, but at the same time, not elitist,” Reish said.

He said the site will lead into his bigger goal of creating an intercollegiate college council, which was part of his campaign platform.

“We are talking about continuing relationships outside of Notre Dame,” he said. “Personal connections make a difference.”

Weinstein he said the site can really benefit the schools involved, especially as it progresses in the future.

“We hope to encourage the participating schools in the listserv to encourage their student government officers to use CollegeGovs and begin populating it with the critical information about their Universities/Colleges and respective student government,” he said. “That will make it such an invaluable tool.”