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Wake Forest University

Committee on Information Technology

Minutes of the February 21, 2007 meeting of the
Committee on Information Technology

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

The first item of the agenda was a report on the bidding process for fall 2007’s computers. Jay and Delphine informed the committee that the bidding process is for computers for the Wake Forest College, the Law School, the Babcock School of Management, the Medical School, and the Baptist Hospital. Most of the computers are laptops, but the Hospital buys some desktops as well. The committee in charge of the bidding process has already met with the three bidding companies (Dell, HP, Lenovo) and the latter have received a memorandum of understanding as to what they will provide in the bidding process. The final decision is expected for April 11th at the latest. During the week of February 26 to March 2, there will be a meeting during one day with each company, one at a time. After each meeting, each company will receive a response/set of questions from the committee, and the company is required to answer within 24 hours. The companies promised to deliver a sample of the computers to IS during the week of March 5-9. The companies were told to send representatives with decision-making power to the meetings. The company that wins the bid will enter into a contract of 4 to 5 years, renewable every two years.

Paul thanked Jay and Delphine for their report and told them to feel free to call a short-notice meeting of the CIT committee if necessary.

The second item of the agenda was the selection of the email package for students this fall (fall 07). Jeff pointed out a problem encountered by some graduate students doing field work. When they are away, their account surpasses the available memory quota and the account is locked, with a subsequent loss or delay in receiving email, and necessary steps to unlock the account. Some students have solved the problem by using Yahoo or Google accounts to bounce their email. These companies are offering massive memory to users and the interface is pleasant and easy. A disadvantage is that these systems do not offer the folder hierarchy available through Mozilla/Thunderbird. A solution for this is that Yahoo and Google offer search abilities that circumvent this problem to a great extent. Jeff discussed a few other advantages, particularly of the Google email:

  • the availability of word-processing, spreadsheets, and calendar within the email system.
  • Google has a system of email groups that allows subscribers to the group to share documents.
  • Google is willing to remove adds if the university pays a fee for the service
  • When students graduate, the email account stays the same and students still log in through their WF email, which allows departments to stay in touch with alumni.

In short, Jeff stated that the Google system has a number of attractive features. It also appears that the cost is low. Finally, Jeff pointed out that Google might be able to offer most of the functionality of Blackboard at a much lesser cost.
On the negative side, Jeff recognized that Google is known for allowing data mining. This is a huge drawback, since just about every member in the committee anticipated that many students, faculty, and administrators will have serious concerns about privacy issues and identity theft. Delphine said that two highly desirable features for a new email system for students would be a better web interface and better way for students to back up their email.

Paul invited members of the committee to write to him volunteering to be part of a subcommittee in charge of further studying this issue. Jay said that due to the negotiations and readiness issues with the computer for next year, the earliest the IS could turn its attention to this issue would be June. After some discussion, it was decided that it would be better to continue this year with the current system and leave the adoption of a new email system for students until next year. Everyone was in agreement. However, Nancy and Susan stated that the library staff was very interested in having the calendaring option offered by Outlook. Jay promised to follow up with determining if students would be able to have access to Outlook Web Access even without being full Exchange users.

The third item of the agenda was the issues regarding the use of hand-held devices in research. Paul noticed that there was no need for the committee to take up this point, since it will be addressed when a campus-wide information systems security policy is developed in the coming months or year.

Finally, Jay informed the committee that the Reynolda Campus can now use the Medical Campus web system for IRB.

The next meeting of the committee will be on March 7 at 4pm. If demo computers from the bidding companies are available for perusal, the meeting will be in the IS building. Members will receive this information before the meeting.

Respectfully submitted by Luis González
February 26, 2007.

 


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