Screens will announce bus arrivals on cold winter nights

By Hassan S. Ali

After nearly a month of debates and appeals, the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) has approved a proposal to install LCD screens in the Reynolds Club.

As part of a pilot program proposed by the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA), Network Services and Information Technology (NSIT), and the Student Government Campus Services Committee, the new installations are designed for both publicity opportunities and personal convenience. The cost has not yet been determined, but the total proposal is for about $7,000.

Jeremy Guttman, a fourth-year in the College, initially formed the idea for information-display screens as an aid for viewing approaching buses on University Avenue. While buses on 57th Street can be viewed from the warmth of the Reynolds Club foyer, buses with routes on University Avenue require students to wait outside, posing an inconvenience during the winter months. As Chair of the Student Government Campus Services Committee, Guttman and fellow committee members followed through with the idea, extending the project to ORCSA and NSIT administrators for increased support.

The project began to take form late last quarter and over winter break, when ORCSA and Guttman began communicating more seriously about putting the proposal into action. Last Tuesday, Guttman presented his proposal to the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC), which is responsible for reviewing budget requests and funding on-campus events. Both the College Council and Graduate Council, consisting of college and graduate students, respectively, decided the vote. Initially, it was split. A subsequent tie-breaking vote by the Chair went against the proposal.

Guttman appealed the decision, and at an SG Assembly Meeting last Thursday, the College Council voted unanimously to fund the project in full, pending the decision of the Graduate Council. This past Wednesday, the Graduate Council once again rejected the proposal, based primarily on financial reasons, and the proposal was left to the decision of the executive slate, which convened early Thursday morning to discuss the issue. The executive slate approved the proposal, and the project will go forward.

Tim Banks, associate director of facilities and event services for ORCSA, worked closely with Guttman and outlined the collaborative planning efforts involved in the project. “We reached out to NSIT, considering their past work with USITE technology,” he said, referring to the three computing facilities maintained by NSIT across campus. “They came back to us with the idea of a pilot program to dispense information through the screens, which can be viewed by everyone.”

Current plans call for screens in the Reynolds Club Marketplace and basement, as well as a display in the Reynolds Club foyer. The layout and placement of the monitors highlighted some of Banks’s concerns about the project, namely involving crowd control and security. “We’re trying to avoid too much bottlenecking,” he said.

The SG proposal calls for one 37-inch LCD screen to be installed in the Reynolds Club foyer, with ORCSA responsible for the costs of the additional screens and installation equipment. An outdoor web camera will be installed on the side of Eckhart Hall, where buses traveling northbound on University Avenue can be seen. According to Guttman, the camera will be connected by a long Ethernet cord to a Mac Mini, the newest computer designed by Apple. The computer will be used to program the various announcements on the screens and to communicate with the camera outside.

To meet the various technological demands, NSIT has collaborated on the project with SG and ORCSA by developing software and providing consulting fees at no charge. Kaylea Hascall, Assistant Director for Technology, Architecture and Service Coordination (TASC) at NSIT, has played an active part in designing the project’s technical components. “I can definitely say that the system is quite practical from an architectural standpoint, and it builds directly from what we’ve done before,” Hascall said. “I think the system is also practical from a social standpoint because so many different types of content can be displayed, and all the information can be quickly changed.”

While he could not outline a specific timetable for the project’s installation, Banks remained optimistic about the process. “We’d love to see it up by the summer,” he said.

With the approval of the proposal, Guttman is more hopeful than ever about the future of the project. “This will benefit students more than any other capital improvement ever made,” he said.