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Committee on Information Technology

Minutes of the January 31, 2007, meeting of the Committee on Information Technology

Present:  Jonathan Christman, Jay Dominick, Paul Escott, Luis González, Wei-chin Lee, Delphine Masse, Jeff Muday, Susan Smith, Lynn Sutton, and Stan Thomas.

The first item was background on the bidding process for next year’s computer. Jay explained that the new Vice President for Finance, Nancy Suttenfield, is trying to ensure that the purchasing is done as advantageously as possible across the University. This is part of the Strategic Savings Initiative. The Huron Company is helping WFU with this and with other purchasing as well. The committee in charge of the negotiations for the laptop is chaired by Jay and will include representatives from the College, Law School, Business School, Medical School, Health Sciences and Baptist Hospital. Lynn Sutton, Director of the ZSR Library and a member of the CIT, is already on the committee. Jay pledged to keep the CIT closely involved, with the help of a CIT representative to the committee. It will also include some members of Jay’s staff and three members from the purchasing department. Rick Mathews and Ching-Wan Yip are also part of the committee. The bidding will be for both laptops and desktops.  The Reynolda campus buys mostly laptops and the Hawthorne campus buys mostly desktops.  Jay noted that balancing the two will be a challenge.

Paul Escott asked about the continuing relationship with IBM now that Lenovo has split from them.  Jay observed that IBM has helped WFU in many ways. Although our relationship with them continues, it is much smaller in dollar terms. It is desirable to continue nurturing that relationship, especially on supercomputing, services, and some grant applications. Cecilia raised the point that the Graduate School has been buying used machines from Lenovo, and that this will continue for 2 years. Paul and Stan both stressed the importance of close faculty involvement and input in the bidding process, since it is conceivable that computers that are best for the hospital, for example, might not be the best choice for academic uses.

The decision will be reached by early April and will be ratified by the CIT.
The second item was the selection of a CIT voting member to represent this committee in the bidding process. Stan suggested that a person from humanities was highly desirable. The faculty members had scheduling conflicts, since there are several meetings every week during the process, and meetings occur both on Mondays/Wednesdays and Tuesdays/Thursdays. Lynn stated that she didn’t feel comfortable representing the faculty. Cecilia said that she would like to be part of the negotiation, but that her schedule made it impossible to do so. Jay pledged to keep Cecilia up to date on the negotiations. Since medical school and graduate students get computers, Delphine (the graduate student representative) was proposed as a suitable candidate to represent the CIT. After some discussion, she was unanimously approved.

The third agenda item was a report on the distribution of the tablet. Jay admitted that the preparation of the software image for the tablet was not as good as it should have been, and the staff had to solve some last-minutes problems. The logistics of the distribution was not as good as it should have been either. In spite of these problems, faculty seems to be satisfied with the tablet. Delphine and Jeff reported that there is at least one professor in biology taking notes on the tablet and recording a video of the class that is then sent to students. Jeff observed that it was possible to do this with the laptop with a static PPP, but the tablet offers a more dynamic way of doing this.

The meeting ended with a few questions about the bidding process. Jay was asked whether the prospective three vendors will bid on tablets as well, and the answer was positive. However, Jay noted, that at least one of the vendors (Dell) didn’t offer a Tablet option.  Delphine asked whether the negotiating group will consider a different vendor for it. Jay responded that he was still committed to offering a Tablet option for faculty and that if it had to be through a different vendor, that would be fine.  He did not want the lack of a Tablet to disqualify any potential vendor from bidding.

The next meeting of the CIT will be on Wednesday, February 21, at 4 PM in the Library Director's conference room on the 8th floor of ZSR Library.  The agenda will include:
   1.  reports on the activities of the committee soliciting bids for next year's computers
   2.  discussion of the email package to use for students next year
   3.  discussion of issues that may arise involving the use of hand-held digital devices by faculty members in research or teaching.

Prepared and submitted by Luis González


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