IT Dept. improves its services

With the debut of the state-of-the-art science center just six months away, Information Technology will reform its service in repairing equipment on campus, making it faster and more visible.

Since IT began overseeing the university’s technology equipment two years ago, it has been plagued with a short staff, said Gary Pratt, Chief Information Officer. Currently, IT has 10 full-time technicians, one for every 250 pieces of equipment, with several student aids to assist the technicians in computer repairs. The industry standard for universities is one technician for every 75 pieces of equipment. Pratt said IT is lobbying the university for more funds to increase payroll and hopes to hire more technicians by July. He said he hopes to reduce the disparity of workers to equipment to at least 1 to 150.

The chasm between workers and the ever growing amount of equipment on campus causes delays in repairing the equipment, Pratt said. He said IT is experiencing growing pains because it is only a two-year old department.

“Whenever you create something new, there are bound to be some problems,” Pratt said. “We have changed drastically.”

To address some of these problems, a committee of nine faculty members formed last semester to highlight concerns regarding IT. Committee chair Barry Andersen, associate dean of arts and sciences, described IT’s performance as erratic.

“It ranges from very good to very poor,” Andersen said.

Andersen said the committee isolated two areas that need improvement: an increase in staff and an increase in communication to the faculty.

In addition to some delays, Andersen said some faculty members have trouble contacting an IT technician if they need assistance, and will sometimes get an answering machine.

Andersen cited the maintenance of the smart classrooms, which contain advance teaching tools like rear-projection screens, as being a problem.

“When you have problems in student labs, instruction is impaired,” Andersen said, “and that is a very serious.”

The campus’s 35 smart classrooms are one of IT’s main motivations for asking for additional staff, said Bert Brown, IT’s associate director of customer systems.

“We need to be able to respond to those needs right away,” Brown said.

Brown said the opening of the new science building, which will add close to 20 more smart classrooms, makes it imperative they get more funding. If they don’t get more funding, he said IT will have to rely more heavily on the student support workers. Brown said that will be tough since they already receive about 500 work orders a month from faculty to repair broken equipment.

Despite some glitches with smart classrooms, Andersen commended IT on their commitment to improvement.

“There are still some problems to be resolved, but they are making a concerted effort to meet the needs of the University,” Andersen said.

Dr. David Carrell, the chair of the College of Business, agreed that, while IT hasn’t been perfect, they have made a good effort.

“They have done the best they can under the circumstances,” Carrell said.

Some other faculty members, however, declined to comment on their experience with IT.

Overall, most faculty members have been understanding of any delays in work orders, and most are taken care of in 3 to 5 days, said Jarrod Carpenter, a student computer consultant for IT. In fact, the reaction of faculty and staff to IT is what makes the job rewarding, he said.

“There is always a feeling of satisfaction when people are grateful that you solved their problems,” Carpenter said.