Students at McGill U. Band Together to Promote Wikipedia

Students have long turned to Wikipedia for answers — often to the frustration of professors, who complain that the user-written encylopedia is not always accurate. But students at McGill University have taken their love of the free resource guide to a new level by starting a Wikipedia club on the campus.

The university’s student government granted interim status to Students Supporting Wikipedia last month, making it a bona fide student organization. It might be the first officially sanctioned Wikipedia club on a college campus.

“I wasn’t surprised when the group applied, because Wikipedia is so often used by students now that it wouldn’t be long before students somewhere rallied round to show support,” said Sarah Olle, the Students’ Society vice president responsible for clubs.

The main purpose of Students Supporting Wikipedia is to raise money and contribute information to the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia does not accept advertising and depends on gifts of time, money, and equipment to help keep the site going.

The club has no shortage of ideas for ways to get students to spend some money that will go to the Wikimedia Foundation. The club plans to hold a Wiki trivia contest, a poker tournament with prizes, bake sales, and a nightclub event, according to a report in The McGill Tribune.

The club hopes one of its continuing moneymakers will be donation boxes around the campus with the message “If you used Wikipedia today, put in a quarter.” Club members expect students will toss in a lot of quarters because so many use the site, especially at essay-writing time or during exam weeks.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a campus club,” said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, in San Francisco. “It’s creative and reflects something we know: Students are very active users.”

The foundation wants to support the creation of similar groups on other campuses. “We’re at the early, early stage of outreach to campuses,” he said, so McGill may be starting a trend.

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