While dollars from Antioch College students are spent on the college’s subscription to FirstClass, a new prospect has appeared on the technological horizon. Sprouting out of the alumni-run website antiochians.org, an alternative to the college’s use of the FirstClass messaging and communications software is currently under construction.
The FirstClass system, which links all of the Antioch University campuses, is a subscription service paid for in part by the tuition of Antioch college students.
Enthusiasm about the possibility of an alternative email and messaging has been growing slowly on the college campus. Concerns about the privacy of information on the FirstClass server have been raised and some students have moved their email communications to private email providers. These concerns were heightened by the recent consolidation of University FirstClass servers from localized campus servers to a site in New England.
Following the Antioch University Board of Trustees announcement earlier this year of the suspension of operations for the college, a strong alumni support movement began. One product of this movement was the creation of the antiochians website. From its beginnings as a site for the larger Antioch community to gather news, the webpage has grown to include a forum, gallery, and a wiki page, among other features.
The motivation for the creation of the site comes from the need of alumni to be on even ground concerning facts related to the closing of the college. “We were going to need to be organized and share information,” said Matt Baya, one of the alumni working on the site.
Baya and others are working with an open source platform called Drupal (drupal.org) which “has thousands of features,” he says. Drupal has all the features and accessibility to provide a solid alternative to FirstClass system.
In 1997 Baya worked in the technical resources department at the college, in the days before FirstClass. According to Baya, the decision to implement FirstClass met some resistance. Prior to the actualization of the software, students and faculty could have their own websites and an email address. When the rest of the University forced the school to conform to the new system, all websites and former email addresses were lost, Baya said.
The recent server move to New England comes at a time when the college’s professional technical staff has been moved to the new West building. IT operations at the college are now handled by a staff of three work study students. Field Technician Cassie Collins still attests to the integrity of the campus network. “I don’t think there’s been a practical impact,” she said. “The tickets are still being answered.”