Students Grumble as Problems Plague IT Department

broken-laptop.jpg By Paige Clifton-Steele

The staff knows it and the students notice it: the Information Technology department at Antioch College is understaffed and under-funded. “We’ve had consistency issues. We’ve had authentication issues. And it was generally inconvenient in the beginning,? says Shea Witzberger, first year. She isn’t alone in her complaints—many Antioch users of WiFi continue to experience similar problems.

According to a June 2002 study released by the Gartner Group, a respected computer-consulting firm, one IT support person is required for every seventy Macintosh computers, or for every forty-five PCs. The Antioch Information Technology department has six people, in addition to one co-op student and the manager of the website, who lives and works out of state. When measured against the approximately 1,200 users who make up Antioch College and Antioch University McGregor, it becomes clear how disproportionate these numbers are. That’s one staff member for every two hundred users.

The implications of this are many. First year students have complained about the wireless in North Hall—mostly about problems that have since been resolved. However, students continue to lament short-term problems with wireless. “I’m glad that they’ve been so helpful with my concerns online, though.?

Several students report being better able to access support online, while their in-person requests receive less priority. Paul Deardorff, Systems Administrator, acknowledges that questions put to him in his office or the hall may fall by the wayside. “People will come up and say I’m having a problem with this, I’m having a problem with that…And to be honest with you, it’s hard to keep up. It’s much easier for us if someone were to log into the helpdesk and put a helpdesk ticket up.?

Sometimes, students and staff vary on what constitutes a problem; several students are concerned about privacy policies on First Class, while IT staff would like to handle the issue informally.

“I am concerned about privacy in my First Class Account,? says Sean Bradley, straight white male first year. “And most people’s initial passwords were logarithms of their names and some fairly consistent number…?

However, Brown differs, “I don’t know of any policy, but to be honest I don’t see the need for one because every person in the IT department very firmly believes that we don’t mess with your mail unless somebody real, real high up above asks us to.? At MacGregor, policy states that that person is the president of the school. It remains ambiguous who would have the authority to ask that of the department at the college level.

Cassie Collins, a fourth year co-oping in the department, says, “What I have seen would lead me to believe that there is not [a privacy policy regarding First Class moderation].? Asked whether she believes there is a call for one, she says yes, qualifying, “But not because anything that IT has done.?

Another problem hampering the efficiency of the department is its tendency to be pulled into audiovisual maintenance jobs that are not strictly computer related. Collins believes she has a solution: “I think just having one person to handle AV would be useful. Take a coop student, teach them all about the AV, and just have them run AV support.?

Units, in addition to North Hall, has wireless internet, while Birch and Spalt remain connected with Ethernet. Spalt residents complain of few problems with their internet, but North has suffered a series of setbacks since students arrived in September.

The IT department made changes to the North wireless network just prior to the beginning of the academic school year because of a PHD program residency, but the changes caused problems that went undetected for a few weeks. “There was a difference in firmware between the AP2000 and the AP4000,? says Tom Brown. “We couldn’t figure it out for a while because we couldn’t see a trend. We had to make the wireless open, available to everyone.?

During this time, students in North could access the wireless network without a certificate. A few weeks later, it was resecured.

Understaffing isn’t the only problem that plagues the department. On the second floor of the library is a pile of broken computers awaiting disposal. “The village won’t take them because they’re not environmentally safe to dispose of,? says Brown. Though a few of them were removed when Dylan Reiff took them for use in his show. ‘Robocalypse’ last term, Brown still stays, “I think we need to work with physical plan to make that happen. They’re piling up every time one dies.?

Asked what makes the IT department at Antioch unique than that of other schools, Deardorff says with pride that the members of the IT department have a variety of degrees and areas of expertise different from the usual computer-related studies. These range from philosophy to English.