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Launch of off-campus Web site delayed to Fall 2009

Sarah Mervosh | Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Student government will launch its new off-campus Web site in the fall instead of at the end of this year as originally planned because the Web site has expanded to cover many aspects of off-campus life, Director of External Affairs Gus Gari said.

“It’s an ongoing process and we realize that there is a lot more information that we wanted to be able to provide for students which lengthened our time frame,” he said.

The Web site was originally intended as the online version of the Good Neighbor Guide, which is currently the University’s guide to off-campus living. But after exploring the topic, student government decided to make the Web site about “everything off-campus,” Gari said.

The Web site, which is tentatively named “The Off-Campus Connector,” will list all major housing providers and explain different zoning laws. There will also be resources giving information about signing a lease, budgeting, utilities, renter’s insurance and the landlord-tenant relationship.

“Indiana actually has the most strict landlord-tenant rules and students don’t know that they need to be protected,” Gari said. “It basically goes through all of the Indiana tenant laws for you and the landlord.”

Another aspect that the Web site will cover is the expectations of the community and the University for students who live off campus.

“The common misconception is [I’ll move off campus] so I can drink hard alcohol and so the University can’t do anything to me anymore,” Gari said. But the University still has authority over students who live off campus, he said.

“There are still things like men and women can’t live in the same house. Official university expectation is that that can’t happen,” he said.

Gari also said if a student receives noise violations and a copy is sent to the University, the University can take action.

The Web site will also contain resources for safety and security, from how to protect cars and houses from burglary to what to do to stay safe while walking down the street.

Although the Web site has resources for students who live off campus and students looking to make the transition to living off campus, it caters to students who live on campus as well.

“All students go off campus,” Gari said.

There will also be resources for events and restaurants in the Michiana area, which will help make students more aware of what is available to them in the community, Gari said.

For example, if a student wants to figure out which restaurant to take his or her parents to on a football weekend, the Web site can serve as a resource.

“We’re toying with the idea of separating it by price. Like, ‘Oh, I just want to go grab a quick burger with my roommates’ or ‘I want my parents to really take me out for that nice steak,'” Gari said.

Gari said one factor that has slowed down the completion of the Web site is the fact that Eddy’s Street Commons is not finished. He said that he would prefer to include Eddy’s Street Commons in the final version of the Web site so he would not have to take the site down to update it when the development is completed.

“Eddy’s Street Commons is a really critical part. And then obviously the restaurants that are associated with,” he said.

The Web site will also offer transportation information, including a list of all cab companies’ phone numbers, information about buses around South Bend and information about transportation to Chicago.

Gari said he plans to have news and events on the home page of the Web site, such as student government events that have to do with off-campus life or simply interesting events in the South Bend area.

“For example a lot of people didn’t know that last month, Robin Williams was here doing a comedy show,” Gari said.

“The main objective here is to be able to communicate to students no matter if they are on campus or off campus,” he said. “Communicating to students what’s in the world around them and being able to give students … information depending on what they are trying to get out of off-campus life.”

The Web site should be a resource for a student who wants to move off campus, as well as someone who is simply worried about how to stay safe at off-campus parties, Gari said.

“It’s really an all-encompassing umbrella project of everything off campus,” he said.