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Committee on Information Technology

Minutes of the November 7, 2007 meeting of the
Committee on Information Technology

Present:  Jonathan Christman, Jeff Muday, Luis González, Jolie Tingen, Susan Smith, Delphine Masse, Hugh Howards, Rick Matthews, Paul Escott, Matt Nelkin, Patrick Morton, Wei-chin Lee, Anne Bishop, Mike Spano

The first agenda item was an update on the information technology security policy.  Mike Spano, the new interim CIO, attended the meeting to report on this as Jay is now the Chief Technology Officer working for Matt Cullinan.

Mike, who also works for IBM, said that he will be working with information systems as interim CIO for about six months.  Anne Bishop is the primary contact for Mike but he said that he is available if someone needs to contact him directly.  Security is the first priority and Mike is creating a security task force to address this issue. He said that he understands interdependencies, limitations, and he will focus on policies, procedures and reporting. 

Paul said that IT runs into difficulties because other departments need to reform their operations and that perhaps an interim CIO can push for changes in other departments as well.  Mike agreed that his interim status makes it easier to confront difficult changes.  He said that other changes in Information Systems will be; changing the department name to Information Technology, building a service catalog, fixing workload issues, changing the help desk name to end user services, and creating the ability for departments to buy computing from IS.  Mike also mentioned the new service @task.

The second agenda item was software options for the laptop standard load next year.  Patrick said that there had been plans to move to Vista this year but he thinks we should wait one more year.  UNC Chapel Hill is having a hard time with Vista and there are financial issues as well.  Mike said there are also security issues with Vista.  We can continue to use Windows XP because Microsoft has extended the product’s life cycle until 2010.  Patrick would, however, like to move to Office 2007 this year on the standard load.  He said that end user issues are not as much of a problem with Office as back end issues.  Delphine asked about performance and Patrick said that performance is comparable.  There are conversion issues between the office versions and Patrick said that Microsoft will not fix this.  With Microsoft Office 2007, files save in XML.  Patrick can put converters on the laptop software load and we can train users on conversion.  Rick said that it will be less of an issue on campus and more so in sharing with people off campus.  Patrick said that we might be able to change .dot file to save files as an earlier version.  Jeff asked if Office 2007 supports an open document format.  Microsoft is moving toward a collaborative environment and programs work together.  Hugh asked if we can move away from Microsoft.  Patrick responded that we need to think about the future of students.  Macs and Linux are being used more on campus.  Mike said that Linux and OpenOffice can compete now.  Rick made that point that virtual machines are getting better fast and those choices will be available and an easier transition in later years.  Jeff said he is seeing more Macs and at the University of Pittsburgh faculty like the Mac choice with Boot Camp.  Jeff also mentioned that VA Tech is seeing more Macs on their campus.  Patrick said we can continue to use Office 2003 until June of next year.  Jeff said that we have to move to Office 2007 to meet students’ expectations.  The committee agreed to go to Office 2007 and to wait on Vista.  Mike said we need a plan to move to Office 2007.

The third agenda item for the meeting was an update from Jeff Muday regarding Google mail.  Jeff said that a number of universities are using Google Apps and Microsoft Live (hotmail).  Google mail provides an Ajax web mail client with 2.8 GB of space and lots of other features.  Google is interested in running their service ad free to undergrads with alumni getting the ads.  The application works with mobile devices and the university could easily push events to student calendars.  Jeff said there are many pluses but that FERPA policy hasn’t been tested in this environment and we don’t control Google policy.  A Google engineer told Jeff that external e-mail is ok with FERPA.  UNCG believes they might be able to legally move all faculty and students to Google.  Jeff also said that a negative is single point of failure.  Northwestern, Hofstra, and UNC-G, are using Google mail.  In the case of Northwestern, students demanded the change because the university wasn’t providing the services the students wanted.  Jeff said that end user satisfaction is good.  One major problem is that Google’s 24/7 support is not quite true.  Google wants to do a pilot.  Jeff recommended a pilot for graduate students.  He suggested we consider doing this within the next year.  Jeff said there is an opt-out and there is no cost going in or out of an agreement with Google.  Mike wondered how alumni feel about ads.  Rick made the point that we don’t offer anything to alumni now except e-mail forwarding.  Rick said that he suspects Google will accept payment from alumni for no ads.  We would allow alumni to continue to use a e-mail address.  Hofstra said that their Google portal is very important in staying in contact with alumni.  Rick said that we are missing wonderful opportunities by forcing students off our e-mail.  Rick said that we are not offering students much.  Jeff mentioned Google’s OpenSocial which allows you to develop a portfolio with control over access to content.  He said that Google is moving to cell phones and that we might be able to gain the success with cell phones on campus we’ve been aiming for.  There is no deadline for signing up with Google.  Jeff said that we choose industry leaders for partners and that gives us a certain amount of reliability.  Jon asked if the CIT makes a decision on this.  Jeff responded that the committee could make a recommendation that IS conduct a pilot.  Mike suggested we start with alumni.  Jeff said that he would like to look at Windows Live to compare those services with Google offerings.

The last agenda item was Blackboard.  Jolie said that she is working with the IS R & D team on a project that includes looking at Blackboard.  A survey was sent to faculty and staff through the ITGs to get feedback and Blackboard usage and satisfaction.  The results of the survey and information on CMS alternatives will be presented to the committee as the project moves forward.

Respectfully submitted,
Jolie Tingen


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