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Project Spotlight: Student Government Livestream

By jservedio on April 27, 2018

Caio Brighenti ’20

During the fall semester of 2017, the Student Government Association took on an ambitious initiative to livestream all senate meetings, making them accessible to all students either in real time or for later viewing. As the student government webmaster, I worked in partnership with communications director Curt Reeves and senator Marc Maggiore to propose the project.

Curt and I make up the SGA communications team. Our mission and goal is to promote transparency for the student government. In that spirit, we brainstormed potential ways to increase the visibility of SGA and increase student involvement in the matters we take up. The senate is the largest SGA body and deliberates on many of the important decisions impacting Colgate students. Given our role and interest in improving student access, the senate was a natural fit for our first foray into livestreaming.

Students are encouraged to attend senate meetings, but attendance has typically been low. We had heard from students that, while they would like to be informed and stay up to date with what happens in the senate, they were simply too busy to attend weekly, often multiple hourlong meetings up the hill in Persson Hall. A livestream offered a way to watch without having to leave the comfort of an off-the-hill apartment, and the freedom to tune in only to parts of particular interest or replay content that was missed. Having videos of meetings available on demand would allow students to watch, even if they were busy during meeting times. Overall, implementing a livestream seemed an obvious choice to improve our transparency and increase student engagement.

After just a few meetings, we learned that the room the senate meets in, Persson 27, was already set up to livestream events, had a production booth for streaming, and was fitted with multiple cameras, microphones, and audio gear. From there, it was only a matter of implementing the stream.

Over the span of several weeks, we met with Mark Hine and Doug Watson to work out issues in the technology, and they taught me how to use the equipment. Part of this process involved creating professional-looking graphics to be overlayed on the camera feed, including elements such as the Colgate logo and a document view, which had to be consistent with the branding we have built for SGA. Once we settled these few details, we were ready to stream.

Our first livestream happened at the senate meeting on November 28 of last year. Over the two hours of that meeting, we accumulated 19 total viewers. While this may seem a small number, it is a massive increase given that few students observed meetings prior to this. An increase from one to 19 is a nineteen fold increase. Since then, the audience has continued to grow. In one March 2018 meeting that included an address from Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin, and a heated discussion over a bill opposing Betsy DeVos’ changes to Title IX, we had more than 300 views. The “Livestream” page on the SGA website has had nearly 450 page views in a recent 30-day period. These are incredible numbers that show we were successful beyond even our expectations in increasing transparency and student engagement.

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