Michael Horn

The Safe Ride and UTexas app initiatives launched by Student Government President Kori Rady are being delayed by at least a week.

In an email to The Daily Texan on Aug. 4, Rady said both projects would be released for the first week of school, but now their release dates are uncertain. Rady said both initiatives are having problems at a contractual level. Safe Ride’s insurance is being reviewed, and the UTexas Android app’s contract is still being written.

Safe Ride is a program proposed by Rady, which will provide students transportation home after going out on the weekends. UT is partnering with uRide, a driving service for students that began in College Station, to launch the program. 

Robert Dick, CEO of uRide, said uRide’s insurance provider is talking with their underwriter to clarify specifics of the program.

“[The insurance provider] thought that they had a pretty good understanding of it, but they are basically going back with more questions,” Dick said. 

Dick said he asked Rady to push back Safe Ride’s start while the insurance issues are solved.

“I know that insurance people — they move kind of slow — and so I didn’t want to depend on them for the time of the program,” Dick said. “These things typically take a couple of days, and I wanted to make sure we had everything correct before the program started. It might be ironed out by the end of the week, but I didn’t want to take that chance.”

According to Rady, the Safe Ride program was funded by The Office of the President and will provide students another option to get to their apartments safely.

Rady said Safe Ride will service St. David’s parking lot on Eighth Street and San Jacinto Boulevard, Riverside, campus and West Campus and will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

“It’s a huge program, and we’re starting small to make sure we figure out the logistics,” Rady said.

The UTexas app, an Android version of the iOS UT app, is also running behind schedule. The app has the same design as the original iOS UTexas app but has the same functions as the updated version — including menus, schedules and maps, among other features. 

Michael Horn, director of digital strategy for University Communications, said that over the summer the University decided to buy the Android app’s code from its creators — electrical engineering senior Anurag Banerjee and computer science seniors Mark Fulbright, Max Wade and Jacob Williamson, who came up with the idea in 2012. 

“As we got close to the completion of the app itself, I started to ask around questions about intellectual property and ownership rights with our legal team and contract team,” Horn said. “They suggested that we actually go and purchase this app from our students that built this for us and have them sign a contract, so UT owns the code outright.”

Horn said the decision to buy the app eliminates the risk of the students trying to make a business out of it later and provides many other benefits to the University. According to Horn, UT legal has all the necessary information and is in the process of writing a contract.

“They’ve never done anything specifically like this before,” Horn said. “So they’re doing a lot of internal discussing to figure out the right way to word the contract, so it protects the students and protects the University both.”

Horn said the contract could be ready any day now, but the app’s release is dependent on whether the students sign the contract and how long it takes them to sign it if they do.

Rady said he anticipates the contract being signed by next week.

“I honestly think it might be done by Friday — but at the latest next Friday,” Rady said.

A preview of the University website redesign, ehich demonstrates the responsive web desgin that adjusts to the screen size of smartphones, tablets, and desktops. The re-desgined site is scheduled to launch in the winter. 

A new University website and accompanying student portal is tentatively scheduled to launch this winter. 

The utexas.edu redesign began in 2013. Since then, UT has teamed up with Springbox, a local design agency. An official timeline of the project and its projected release date have not been made available.

The new website will have an updated Google Map and iTunes app and a new Android app that is currently being developed by computer science students, according to Michael Horn, director of digital strategy.

Horn said one of the biggest changes for the site is that it will be formatted for smart phones and tablets using responsive web design that adjusts to the screen size of different devices. 

“What we’ve done on an almost page-by-page basis for the redesign is look at how that information should be displayed on the smallest screen and then on a full desktop size,” Horn said.

Horn said he and his team are working to simplify the home page. 

According to Horn, the home page will utilize white space and images to modernize the site. He said there will be basic promotional information targeted at an external audience of prospective faculty, staff and students.

“Our research showed that what current students are really doing on the home page is using it to get to other services they need,” Horn said. “They’re not stopping to read all of the content.” 

Related promotional sites and student resources, such as the “Be a Longhorn” site, will match the format of the University home page as much as possible, according to Michael Caldwell, assistant director of admissions.

“We’ll definitely still provide that functionality,” said Caldwell, who is overseeing the Be a Longhorn redesign. “The look and feel may change a little bit depending on what happens with utexas.edu, but the process won’t change significantly.”

A student portal, a site unique to each student, is set to launch alongside the new utexas.edu site. The portal was developed in response to recent Senate of College Councils and Student Government resolutions asking for an improved website.

“The vision is that this is the first thing that current students do,” Horn said. “They don’t go to utexas.edu on a regular basis. They go to this portal. That’s their home page.”

While the UT home page is focused on an external audience, the student portal is personalized for its internal audience, similar to UT Direct.

“The student portal is going to provide this interactive experience for our students,” said Carolyn Connerat, associate vice provost and sponsor for the student portal. “It’s going to take the existing functions that students use every day, like getting to the registrars information or financial aid or their calendars, and put them into a new responsive design that will work on their phone, tablet or laptop.” 

According to Connerat, the student portal team is working to find a vendor to help execute the project. 

“Once a vendor is chosen, and [we] start to move into [the] next stage of finalizing the requirements and implementing the expectations, we will definitely … be involving students in process,” Connerat said.