Internet a helpful tool for U groups

Paul Sanders

Albert Alexander-Fryc, chairman of the technology committee for the Disabled Students Cultural Center, is legally blind. But that doesn’t stop him from using the Internet to keep in touch with others who share his interest in disability issues.
Accessing the Internet through computer software that converts text to voice messages, Alexander-Fryc can read e-mail, participate in online discussion groups and design World Wide Web pages.
“As a blind person, I find the Web to be completely useful because I could never get that information,” Alexander-Fryc said.
The Internet has doubled in size every year since 1989. And just as the Internet has been useful for Alexander-Fryc, groups on campus are taking advantage of the communication medium to more efficiently interact with others and share interests.
Alexander-Fryc said the Internet saves the Disabled Student Cultural Center money by eliminating the cost of producing and mailing the group’s newsletter, which is now posted on the Web.
“There’s paper and postage,” Alexander-Fryc said, describing how the cultural center once distributed its newsletter. “On the Web, the cost is nil.”
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office has also found the Internet to be a practical communication resource.
The office originally began using the Internet when it learned some University students and employees wanted easier access to information about the office’s programs, said Beth Zemsky, GLBT Programs Office director.
The Internet is also a useful tool for the office to provide services for people who wish to remain anonymous, Zemsky said.
“Let’s say there’s a 13-year-old in Fergus Falls,” Zemsky said. “They can access a whole world of resources in the privacy of their own home, without having to worry about someone overhearing them on the phone.”
The office provides a searchable data base at its Gopher site, which can be instantly accessed by people with a variety of needs. Counselors in domestic abuse situations can provide references to treatment centers during nonbusiness hours, Zemsky said. Students can also research gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender topics by using keyword searches.
Communicating to large groups of people isn’t a concern for the University’s Singapore Student Society, which has about 25 members, said Ming Lim, the society’s president.
The group uses e-mail to avoid the costs of traditional communication methods. Telephone calls to Singapore are expensive, Lim said, and a letter sent via overseas mail can take as long as two weeks to arrive at its destination.
The group’s Web page is also a way for students who have left the University to keep in touch with students currently active in the society, Lim said.
Lim created the group’s Web page last fall, but said the rapidly changing nature of computer technology will determine the fate of the group’s Internet presence.
As an employee for the University’s Network Telecommunication Services, Lim said he enjoys working with computers. But the next president of the Singapore Student Society may not share his interest in the Internet. “Unless you have the interest and the aptitude, the technology can be difficult,” Lim said.
Lim said he has made the group’s Web page as simple as possible to maintain, so it can continue to be a useful source of information.