Listen, I don’t like to complain, but… Why are the College’s websites so painful to use?

Harry Albert

I don’t like complaining (I love it), but there’s a lot that I think could use improvement at this college. In this column, I plan to break down the problems with the College’s systems that annoy me the most.

The experience of using the College’s set of websites as a student can be confusing and frustrating. Want to enroll in your classes? Go to our Student Records site, affectionately called Sarah because of its url ( Want to make a schedule for your classes? Go to Williams Students Online (WSO). Want to get paid? Go to Ephr, the human resources site. Want to pay the school? Go to EphPay. Want to book a medical appointment? Go to MedicatConnect. Want to check up on your health insurance? Go to Gallagher Health. There’s also GLOW, GET, StarRez Housing, study-away-application, Handshake, and EphLink. Even listing all of the College’s websites is overwhelming. With such a long list of possible options, it can be difficult to find the site that you are looking for, especially if you don’t know about the existence of the site in question.

Not only is it hard to find your desired website, but often said website looks like it was created during the birth of the internet. This feeling is not far from the truth, given that the College has been using PeopleSoft to support Sarah, Ephr, and the College’s finance systems for over 21 years. When you finally find the website you need, it is far from guaranteed that it will function properly. Many sites under the PeopleSoft umbrella require students to log in to their College email multiple times. Even once you have managed to sign in, your access can still be blocked for seemingly no reason. 

Finally, during arguably the most important time for Sarah to function, it often does not. Sarah consistently crashes during pre-registration and registration events every semester, despite these being far and away the most important times for this site to work as expected. If you need any proof of this, walk into any common room or academic space during the opening hours of registration. Looks of dismay accompanied by error pages will not be hard to find. I have personally experienced this issue during three out of four of my registration periods, and the only reason I do not have a 100% preregistration failure rate is that I was accepted into all of my classes during pre-registration for my first semester. Talk to anyone at the College and they or a friend will likely have had their schedule thrown into disarray because Sarah crashed.

Now, it’s no secret that the College’s web system is not ideal. But the question remains: Why should we care? While the College’s sites are a pain to use, you can almost always do what you need, even if it takes a bit of extra time and energy (or, in the case of Sarah crashing, some stressful waiting). A bad user experience is not the worst thing in the world and maybe time shouldn’t be wasted asking the administration to fix this issue.

Although the College’s sites are, at a base level, functional, I don’t think that it’s an unreasonable request that the College administration invests more time and effort into improving these systems. The College spends roughly $500,000 a year just to maintain PeopleSoft — this expense doesn’t even include the other websites that address issues with PeopleSoft or the actual staff running these systems. This is an enormous amount of money, currently poured into a bloated and broken system, that could be spent on student employment or dining (both of which had their budgets recently cut) or any number of quality of life improvements for the student body. 

One might respond that, while we have to deal with Sarah for now, it is at least being replaced with a new student records system in 2026. While this is a much needed step, it is far too late and far too slow. The College has been using this service for 21 years — this level of technological lag would be unacceptable at any private company. Why do we accept it at our school? Don’t we deserve a workable website system that doesn’t crash every time we try to use it, one that feels like it is from this decade, or even this century?

Harry Albert ’25 is from Pittsfield, Mass.