Information Systems and Technology

Information Systems and Technology

By Brittany Wilson, (Whetstone staff writer)

Wesley College’s IT department was outsourced with a company that works with more than 200 other colleges. The College eliminated all but one of the former IT staff.

Ellucian, the “world’s leading provider of student information systems,” assumed responsibility for Wesley’s IT department on the morning of Sept. 29.

President Johnston sent a campus-wide email later that day informing students and faculty of the change.

“The company [Ellucian] will be responsible for ensuring that our technology services and computer operations are meeting the needs and goals of Wesley College,” he said. “The constant pace of change in Information Technology, the rising technology-based expectations of our students, faculty and staff, and the external challenges we face are primary factors in this decision.”

Wesley student Brandon Smith, who has worked in IT for over a year, said he was surprised to find out about the change.

“We didn’t know ahead of time that the IT staff would be leaving,” he said. “I was only prepared because my friend who works down there warned me about it— he told me that it just wasn’t the same down there anymore after everyone was fired. I asked him what happened and he said they had all been out-sourced.”

Dr. Jack Barnhardt, associate professor of psychology, said that regardless of the technicalities, the department has been offered a clean slate.

“I think it’s obvious that they didn’t all just decide to quit on the same day, but I don’t know that they were technically ‘fired’ either,” he said. “But you go into work one day, expecting to have a normal day, and then suddenly a security guard is standing in front of you, you’re led off campus and sent home—certainly from the employees’ perspective, they just got fired.”

List of previous IT Staff

List of previous IT Staff

Barnhardt said that removing staff from campus this way is common in such situations.

“I didn’t see them being escorted, but that’s what I heard,” he said. “I heard that they were escorted from campus and I believe it, just because it is such a normal thing to do under the circumstances.”

Sophomore Kenny Ciccoli said he thinks it was the previous staff’s overall neglect to improve campus technology that got them in trouble.

“Last year I went to IT for help and they pretty much just ignored the problem,” he said. “I came to them with an issue and they said they didn’t have time to deal with it. I went down there last Friday with the same exact problem and there were absolutely no issues. Everybody on the Ellucian staff got involved with it—they stopped everything they were doing to help me with this problem, which I thought was a tremendous difference from the way it was handled by the previous staff last year.”

Student Tom Damario, a technology liaison who hears and relays complaints from students to IT, said he can already tell the change in the IT department will benefit Wesley students and faculty.

“There aren’t many changes being made right now,” he said. “The department’s current focus is on compensating for the previous staff’s substandard procedures, improving and updating systems, and establishing overall technological reliability.”

Damario said the most common complaints from students in the past pertained to the Wi-Fi issues in Zimmerman and frequent trouble with student organization email accounts.

“I communicated these problems to the previous IT management on numerous occasions, but it was never properly handled,” he said. “The new CIO is much more receptive and cooperative, which will definitely benefit Wesley students.”

Barnhardt said that students and faculty have been reporting problems with IT for years.

“For everyone that I have talked to, the issues weren’t ever with the individual IT people, it was dealing with the chief of the department that was difficult,” he said. “There were many times where I would ask for something quite simple and would get the response, ‘That can’t be done.’ I just got the feeling that his view didn’t place serving the students, faculty and classrooms on a very high priority list.”

Bo Vieweg, the interim Chief Information Officer, is implementing Ellucian initiatives on Wesley campus.

“No school ever calls because their system is already great,” he said. “We replaced the staff and presently have a transition team in place, working to stabilize the environment before hiring a permanent staff.”

Among the number of services that Ellucian will offer is a 24/7/365 IT Helpdesk; a “Service Now” ticketing system for tracking issue resolutions; and security systems which will protect all college data, guard against interruptions in service and provide disaster recovery planning.

“There are layers of services beneath each of these areas and the services include staff permanently or temporarily onsite at Wesley, as well as those working remotely,” he said.

The updates to campus technology may not be visible yet, but for students like Smith who work in the department, the environment is considerably different.

“There are more people down there now, the set-up is different, and some of the rules are different,” he said. “They go about things in their own way, and they aren’t trying to repeat the old ways because they were hired for a reason—things must have needed to change. They are more professional, are on it faster and get the job done faster.”

Barnhardt said he is hopeful about the change.

“I’d like to see this team be more responsive to problems and have more organization in terms of preventing problems, rather than just reacting to issues,” he said.

His IT wish list included the addition of several JICs “experts” and an educational technologist to the department’s payroll, both of which he believes would enhance professors’ ability to serve students effectively.