online system

The University is wasting little time plowing ahead with plans to dramatically increase its four-year graduation rates.

Late last month, the College of Liberal Arts sent an email to all of its students notifying them that the online system for declaring a major will be “deactivated indefinitely” by the end of March. Now liberal arts students have to speak with their advisers before doing so.

In addition, President William Powers Jr. announced Monday that Marc Musick, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and resident number-cruncher, is being appointed as a special assistant to the president in charge of overseeing the Office of New Student Services. Among other duties, he has been tasked with implementing changes to freshman summer orientation to make it more academically oriented. The incoming freshman class will be the first one subjected to mandatory orientation for all entrants.

The Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates released its report in mid-February with the goal of achieving Powers’ target of a 70-percent four-year graduation rate. Currently, the University’s four-year graduation rate is 51 percent, the highest among public institutions in the state but well behind many of the large public institutions UT compares itself to.

The University’s frenetic race to implement the report’s 50 recommendations is awe-inspiring, showing that at least when rankings are concerned, UT can shed its customary — that is, near-backward — pace of change, typically defined on its own measuring scale as “university miles per hour.”

Perhaps spurred by the piercing spotlight of federal and state eyes, the University is operating on the assumption of a campus-wide buy-in despite a half-hearted and exception-prone selling point of cost savings for students in the form of tuition they will not have to pay if they graduate on time.

But as the report itself points out, “for the University to achieve [its] goal, it must rethink some of the most venerable and longstanding practices and cultures on campus.”

And this fundamental culture change does not happen without the support of the students.

Austin Police Department’s new program allows citizens to report minor crimes on the web. The program has yielded 93 incident reports since its launch on April 7th. (Photo Illustration)

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Filing a paper police report for petty crimes can be a hassle, and the Austin Police Department hopes its new online system will simplify the process.

On April 7, APD launched a web-based program that allows citizens to write their own reports on minor incidents or write a supplement to an existing police report. So far, citizens have filed 93 reports, and APD expects them to file many more within the first six months of the program.

The system is supported by the vendor copLogic, which the Travis County Police Department also uses for its online police report system. According to APD, copLogic is very cost effective and sends each report straight to APD’s current management system.

The online report takes about 10 minutes to fill out and allows citizens to file nonemergency, low-priority reports from anywhere with internet access.

In 2010, APD processed more than 58,000 telephone reports through 3-1-1, and according to a police officer, many of those reports were low-priority and required little follow-up. With this new system, APD hopes the majority of these reports will be done online instead, said APD officer Simone Graboski.

“The online reporting system is going to be very beneficial to officers and citizens by improving the quality of the report received,” Graboski said.

The most common reports so far include online harassment, credit card abuse and graffiti. Graboski said officers typically reply to the reports within three to four business days, but the website says to allow 12-14.

In order to fill out a online police report, citizens must be at least 17 years old, have a valid email account and proper state identification.

Currently, the UT Police Department does not offer the same online reporting system but does have an anonymous crime tip website which allows students to make reports 24 hours a day.

“It is just a matter of time before UT implements such a system,” said UTPD officer Darrell Halstead.

Houston Police Department instituted a similar online police reporting system in 2007. HPD multimedia specialist Mary Haisten said it still seems new because it is such an exciting tool.

This month alone, HPD’s online police reporting system received 2,486 police reports, the majority of which consisted of vandalism, theft and criminal mischief.

Within two months, the system will be available in other languages including Spanish and Vietnamese. Within six months, the system will accommodate business owners as well, Graboski said.