Committee on Information Technology

Annual Report to the Faculty

Academic Year 2002-2003

 

Issues:

1. e-mail privacy: CIT responded to the issue of e-mail privacy raised by an Old Gold & Black reporter in September. CIT reaffirmed the University’s privacy policies for email and personal files. Minor changes were made to the Privacy section of the Policy on Responsible and Ethical Use of Computing Resources, which is posted on the web at http://www.wfu.edu/organizations/CIT/ethical_use.html. The changes outline a consistent procedure requiring appropriate senior administrator approval before an investigation into a suspected violation of ethical use policies may be launched by Information Systems.

 

2. Bibliographic software: CIT endorsed the recommendation of a task force headed by Rhoda Channing that EndNote, a bibliographic citation database program, be adopted as a campus standard. Having such a standard allows the Information Technology Center to provide user training and support for the program. A number of keyserved copies of EndNote will be provided on the campus network in a fashion similar to that used for other relatively expensive programs. Additional, stand-alone copies may be provided as needed by IS or by individual departments.

 

3. Web browser and e-mail programs: CIT endorsed the recommendation of an email study group, which was headed by IS and which included faculty, staff, and students, that Mozilla be adopted as the primary email and web browser programs installed on the new ThinkPad load. Mozilla, an offshoot of Netscape, includes adaptive email filtering to identify and isolate unwanted junk or “spam” email. Additional “server-side” junk mail filtering is also being implemented (see paragraph 7, below). Fully-configured Outlook email and Internet Explorer web browser programs will also be included in the standard load. The security of the Outlook program has received considerable attention in the computer press. By providing a fully-configured version of Outlook on the load, IS hopes to avoid the problems which might occur if an improperly-configured Outlook program were installed by an individual user. At the present time, only about 4% of email traffic on the IS network is from Outlook users.

 

4. Network bandwidth issues: In November, CIT was asked to consider additional measures to manage user demands for network bandwidth, particularly the demands which originate from peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs. A year earlier, in September, 2001, demands for network bandwidth exceeded the supply; and CIT approved limitations on network traffic identified as P2P-related. The current P2P programs’ network traffic is not as easily identified as it was with the earlier versions, and the limitations in place are not as effective in managing the demand for network bandwidth. CIT discussed the possibility of identifying “priority traffic” and “non-priority traffic” based on its point of origin (academic buildings vs. residence halls, for example). IS has also begun to investigate the use of packet identifiers which might be generated by the standard programs on the ThinkPad load. Using such identifiers could make network management more discriminating.

 

5. New IBM ThinkPad configuration: CIT approved the selection of the new IBM ThinkPad Model R40 to be distributed to eligible faculty, staff, and students beginning with faculty distribution in the summer of 2003. The ThinkPad R40 contains a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 512Mbytes of memory, 40GByte hard drive, and a high-speed CD-RW/DVD combo drive. IBM is phasing out floppy disk drives for the ThinkPad, but USB external floppy drives will be provided to faculty as needed. IBM has also phased out the “PS/2” connector used by older keyboards and mice in favor of USB connectors. Inexpensive PS/2-to-USB adapters are available. The ThinkPad R40 has a built-in 56K modem, a 10/100 network connector, and 802.11a/b wireless. The ThinkPad will contain an IEEE-1394, or “FireWire” connector, which is  popular on digital video cameras and external storage devices. The total weight of the ThinkPad R40 is 6.6 lb.

 

6. Plagiarism-detection software: CIT considered a request from the Information Technology Consultant to the Religion and HES Departments to continue their subscription and evaluation of TurnItIn, an on-line database for identifying plagiarism. Unlike on-line search tools such as Google, TurnItIn provides a secure database to which students upload their papers. The service then generates a confidential originality report to the instructor by comparing the paper with the work of other students in the Wake database and with work readily available on the web. The CIT recommended that the university support a site-wide software license for TurnItIn. The HES Chair responded that supporting another year of software evaluation would be appropriate. The recommendation was forwarded to Dean Escott.

 

7. Junk or “Spam” email control: IS presented for CIT approval a two-tiered plan to control junk or “spam” email. IS proposed subscribing to the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS), which maintains a database of known bulk email senders and unsecured email servers on the web that are accessible to bulk email senders. While it is possible that a few pieces of legitimate email might be identified as junk mail and filtered out, the risk of doing nothing is that junk email will soon overwhelm the entire WFU email system. It is predicted that by mid-2003, over half of all email will be junk mail. A second part of the IS recommendation is that ThinkPad-based tools be installed in both Mozilla and Outlook email programs that will allow users to establish rules to identify and filter out junk email delivered to them. IS will only install the ThinkPad tools to allow filtering. It will be the users’ responsibility to activate filtering on the ThinkPad if desired.

 

8. Future of the WFU Technology Plan: CIT is aware that the current WFU technology contract with IBM expires in two years. CIT recognizes the important role it will play in representing faculty, students, staff, and administrators as the “next-generation” technology program is being planned. Input and support from the entire Wake Forest community will be essential to the success of this effort.