Faculty discusses IT problems during Senate meeting

Joseph Espiritu

Concerns about student success, honorary degrees and the IT challenges that plague the campus were hot topics during the fourth Academic Senate meeting of the semester.

The committee examined items in the President’s Report that included topics such as the renaming of the new Library Resource Center to include former college president Richard McCullough’s name – a motion that is still up in the air.

The report also mentioned a proposed building in the lower campus to be converted into shared offices where instructors can meet with students that will include a lounge and filing drawers for each faculty member.

In addition to the considered changes around the campus, the Senate covered the process of awarding honorary degrees in which Item 1C from Administrative Regulation 6200, which previously said that honorary degrees shall be conferred by the college President, was reamended to say that honorary degrees will instead be conferred by the respective college faculty.

Moving onto student success, the committee further discussed the IT challenges that have badgered instructors and students since the beginning of the semester, with the Dean of Business Science Division, Rocky Cifone, bringing up the issue of the shortcomings in the preparation of laboratory computers, on behalf of the IT Department that affected his division.

“We are here specifically to discuss the impacts that the lack of IT preparation had not only on the teaching and learning experience, [but] the impact that they had on our students and the impact that the lack of preparation and timely follow-up had on student success,” Cifone said.

Cifone further addressed that while this issue might be considered a blip in the radar by some of the faculty, he and his colleagues think otherwise and have loss faith in the IT Department by saying that this issue will repeat itself – pointing out the failure of follow ups in the work orders as the primary reason why.

“Nothing beats the shear sense of helplessness when you’re a dean and to not be able to get students what they need in the classroom,” Cifone said, adding that the problem is sure to have campus-wide ramifications if not handled immediately.

In support of Cifone, instructors from the college’s Computer Information Management division also spoke out, detailing the 62 work orders that were submitted during the spring semester for the 135 computers in their classrooms and labs that were not met.

“When you have an 8-week class and by the end of the fourth week you don’t have a server, the student’s have no way to do their assignments,” CIM Instructor Carolyn Gillay said, pointing out that she has had a couple students drop her class to avoid a “W” on their academic records.

Mark Schiffelbein who directs the college’s Technology Services rebutted by saying that their focus was directed toward the LRC since it was given to them as a high-priority assignment, but that they never meant to neglect all the labs in the campus.

Schiffelbein cited late orders on software and troubles that he and his crew ran across while installing computer hardware that snowballed preventing their efforts in completing the work needed on time.

“We have 28 different computer laboratories around the campus and each supports a very select group of instructors and programs,” Schiffelbein said, denoting the specialized programs that each requires. “It’s quite a juggling project to get all the software working together.”

Ultimately, both sides agreed that the problems arose due to a lack of IT staffing, but also acknowledged that not just anyone can grasp the fundamentals required to operate said labs.

“It’s not just a situation where we can bring somebody in and say if you need extra help grab someone and bring them in,” Schiffelbein said. “These people have worked with the instructors and those programs for years and years just to get an understanding of what needs to be put into those labs – so outside help is usually not that beneficial, especially at the last minute.”

A proposed solution was to cross-train the existing IT staff, but that in itself is difficult considering that a tech can man up to five labs at any single time.

Students who were affected by the lack of re-imaged computers and had to drop are urged to contact their instructors to discuss a possible refund of their tuition.

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