Correction appended: A previous version of this story said the back-end for MSA’s new website was written in the PEARL programming language. It was written in the Perl programming language.
After four months and more than $1,000 in Web development costs, the Michigan Student Assembly will make its new website available to students by next Tuesday, according to MSA President Abhishek Mahanti.
Mahanti, who made the new website one of his central campaign promises last spring, wrote in a Sept. 25 e-mail to the student body that the site would be up in “the next few days.”
“The website will be Wiki-based, which allows different committee and commission chairs of MSA to have access to their own pages, allowing for greater transparency and accountability in your student government,” he wrote. “We plan on opening this framework to the entire student body. It’ll be called Michipedia, and we think it will allow students, faculty and staff to have access to all Michigan-related information at their fingertips. It should be awesome.”
Mahanti said in a recent interview that MSA’s Web team, which consists of two hired developers making $8 per hour and a small group of MSA representatives, completed the website in the first week of October. But on Oct. 6, when the current site was replaced by a message saying the new site would be up that day, the team ran into problems when it tried to launch the site on University servers.
According to Mahanti, the back-end for the site had been written for version 5.10 of the programming language Perl. The Information Technology Central Services servers MSA had intended to use only had support for version 5.8.
Rather than wait for the University to upgrade, MSA decided to host the site on servers provided by Eta Kappa Nu, a student-run electrical engineering and computer science engineering honor society.
Mahanti said hosting the site on the Eta Kappa Nu servers is only a temporary solution and that the website will be transferred to University servers once the University updates its software.
“Everything will actually behave the same except it will be hosted on student servers instead of (ITCS), which is kind of cool actually,” Mahanti said.
Eta Kappa Nu allows students to use its servers free of charge, according to MSA Student General Counsel Jim Brusstar, who is also president of Eta Kappa Nu.
Engineering Rep. Pat Pannuto, who is also a member of Eta Kappa Nu, is in charge of putting MSA’s site on Eta Kappa Nu’s servers. He said he expects the website will be up by the end of this week.
Brusstar said this temporary solution is a better option than maintaining MSA’s current website, which he said “isn’t the greatest.” He said the website will likely be moved permanently to the ITCS servers early next semester.
“(Mahanti) is thinking it’s more important to get the new website up there and get people to start using it because it really does offer a lot of benefits as far as transparency goes,” Brusstar said.
While the student body can use the website for general campus information, MSA representatives and committee and commission members can use the website for internal purposes, like accessing attendance records.
Though Eta Kappa Nu’s servers were always an option, MSA didn’t turn to the organization earlier because representatives feared hosting the site with a student organization might be unreliable in the long term because of the annual change in leadership, Mahanti said.
But now that MSA needs a short-term place to host the site until the University updates its software, Brusstar said he is confident the Eta Kappa Nu servers will be dependable, even though his term as president will end with the semester.