Annual Report

Committee on Information Technology

Academic Year 2000-2001

March 29, 2001

The Committee on Information Technology met fourteen times between August of 2000 and March 29, 2001, the date of this report. The committee's charge is:

  1. To serve as the principal agent of the faculty in developing policies relating to information technology.
  2. To monitor and evaluate policies on computers and information technology.
  3. To make recommendations for implementation and continuation of policies on computers and information technology, subject to faculty approval.

(Quoted from Faculty Constitution, Bylaws and Statutes, May 1996.)

The principal items of business during the current academic year have been:

  1. Developing and adopting a draft policy on copyright ownership.
  2. Working with Human Resources to develop and ACS career ladder.
  3. Recommending a policy on the format of archived documents.

Other items of discussion have included:

Copyright ownership

In the spring of 2000, Dean Escott asked the Committee on Information Technology (CIT) to recommend a policy regarding copyrighted digital material produced by faculty (and staff?) of the university. He asked us to assure the community that there was no interest in penalizing faculty. At the time, such issues were being resolved case-by-case with no policy to guide the university, and the need for such a policy had become clear.

While the university has a clear policy about inventions and patents, no such policy exists for other forms of intellectual property. A subcommittee of the CIT, consisting of Rhoda Channing, Rick Matthews, and Wayne King, was asked to develop an initial draft of such a proposal for the CIT.

Rick Matthews sent an e-mail to all department chairs on March 6, 2000, soliciting comments on copyright policy. He asked the chairs to forward the message to members of their departments. A few responses were received from faculty, and all were shared with the subcommittee.

The subcommittee reviewed the WFU Patent and Inventions policy and the copyright policies of several other universities. The committee reached a provisional consensus on several guiding ideas:

  1. The University Inventions and Patents Policy already covers some kinds of copyrighted intellectual material: software that is "device-like". The subcommittee does not seek to change this distinction. The proposed copyright policy will cover all copyrighted material that is not "device-like." Such software is labeled as "informational" in the Inventions and Patent Policy.
  2. No distinction should be made between software and more traditional intellectual works. Any distinctions should be based on the nature and use of the intellectual property (e.g., "device-like" or "informational"), not on the medium in which the creation is manifest.
  3. Staff and students should have the same rights to intellectual property as faculty. Many faculty have stated that an ACS that collaborates with a faculty member in the creation of intellectual property should share in the rewards.
  4. The university should have a mechanism for resolving disputes over share of proceeds when multiple faculty, staff, and students contribute to an intellectual work.
  5. Faculty should not sell an online course that is in competition with Wake Forest University. Textbooks are acceptable, of course. How do we articulate a distinction? The subcommittee feels that the "device-like" vs. "informational" distinction may be sufficient. A textbook or CD used as part of a course would be "informational," while a self-contained online course must by its nature include feedback that would have "device-like" components.

With these principles in mind, the subcommittee chose the Wake Forest University Inventions and Patent Policy and the Cornell University Copyright Policy as a starting points, merged these two, and introduced changes and additions where they deemed appropriate. A committee with a similar charge adopted our policy as a starting point, adding only a few changes. The subcommittee of the CIT incorporated nearly all these changes in their final draft, adopted on Oct. 2, 2000, and available on the CIT web site.

To our knowledge, this policy has not yet been adopted by the Board of Trustees and therefore does not yet represent official university policy.

ACS Career Ladder

The CIT has long recognized the need to provide a career advancement path for talented Academic Computing Specialists. The committee has worked with Dean Escott and Human Resources for several years to develop such a plan. The committee reviewed a draft plan in fall of 1999. Progress was slowed by two changes in the position of director of Human Resources during the effort.

Ralph Pederson arrived as director in January 2000, as was soon informed of the importance of this matter. He asked Brenda Balzer, Associate Director of Human Resources, to lead the development of the career ladder. A draft plan was available by October 2001, and Balzer and Pederson discussed the draft with the ACS's, the department chairs, and with the CIT. The principal change recommended by the CIT was to accept alternatives to formal certifications as ways of demonstrating expertise in different technical skills. A final draft that properly addressed all the concerns of the CIT was completed in February 2001. After meeting with the department chairs, Dean Escott accepted the ACS career development plan, a copy of which is available on the CIT web site.

Format of Archived Documents

The committee recognizes that many documents are being put up on the web in proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word. We worry that such documents may be difficult to read in ten or twenty years. Therefore we adopted a recommendation on the format of archived documents, asking this community to use HTML or plain text for documents intended as permanent records. This recommendation is available on the CIT web site.

Napster

Chief information officer Jay Dominick brought to the committee's attention in September a radical increase in network access to off-campus activities. There was speculation that this sudden increase was a result of use of the Napster file sharing service. Aside from ethical considerations, implications for network performance if the growth continues are considerable. Napster's recent losses in court may solve this problem.

Off-campus access to Usenet

Usenet is a set of threaded discussion boards allowing asynchronous communication on most any issue of interest. There are thousands of such boards, hosted in a much distributed fashion. Local campus-specific boards have been restricted to on-campus and IGN users. One such board, wfu.misc, has developed into a thriving campus community, and several alumni have complained at the loss of access to these discussions upon graduation and account termination.

The CIT polled participants in wfu.misc and then recommended opening up this one board to the outside world. The committee hopes that this access will encourage dialogue between current and former students. If the access proves troublesome to the local participants, they have the option of a second discussion area, wfu.misc.not, of similar charter but restricted to active members of the campus.

Next year's hardware and software

Next year's operating system will be Windows 98. We had hoped to move to the more stable Windows 2000, but the staff of Information Systems doubts that they can have a reliable installation ready in time for distribution. Training of the trainers is also a problem. IS and the training staff will work during the coming year to be ready to move forward with Windows 2000 for the fall.

Office 2000 will be the standard office suite.

Upon the request of several departments, a graphics and photo editing package will be available for download next year. The application chosen is Paint Shop Pro, deemed by the committee to be the best alternative to the much more expensive Adobe Photoshop.

Next year's machine is still under discussion, but will include for the first time a CD-RW drive capable of creating CD's. This meets a long-standing concern for a viable backup solution given the large files encountered these days. The system will probably not have a floppy drive, but external floppy drives will be available for around $40.

April 4, 2001 addendum: The CIT brought several concerns to IS about the performance of the machine first proposed. Jay Dominick and Tim Covey were able to find and configure a machine that addressed the concerns of the committee and faculty. The CIT approved adoption of the second machine. The machine will have a 800 MHz Pentium III processor, 192 Mb RAM, 20Gb hard drive, CD-RW drive, 14.1" display, better video performance (8 Mb video RAM and 3D graphics), a floppy drive, infrared port, and S-Video out. This machine has much better specs than the first one, and weighs only ten ounces more.

Further information

Full minutes of the CIT are available on the CIT web page, http://www.wfu.edu/CIT.

You may contact the entire CIT directly at cit@wfu.edu.


Respectfully submitted,

Rick Matthews, Chair

Committee on Information Technology