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Proving that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, I’ve been spending the past 3 weeks beating my head against a wall trying to deal with our campus IT department and their plans to fix my dorm’s virus-related internet outage. The one Networking course I took in grad school obviously doesn’t make me an expert, but I can’t believe some of the half-baked “solutions” I’ve been asked to help carry out.

First, the IT dept. unhooked our T1 line (disrupting the 4 Kbs Lynx browsing I was managing to do through the virus traffic) and set up a switch in the lounge so they could have people bring down laptops to be checked for viruses (completely ignoring desktop machines). And because the university doesn’t have the money to provide software, they were installing Anti-Virus software only long enough to check the machine and then uninstalled it.

Next, the IT department decided to require all students to purchase Anti-Virus software for their computers (a noble goal I completely agreed with). But nobody I talked with in the IT department seemed to share my concern that buying a shrink-wrapped copy of Norton or McAfee from J & R that had been sitting in a warehouse for a month or two and didn’t have the latest virus definitions wouldn’t solve our problem, especially since the students didn’t have a live connection to update to the latest definitions.

Then, I was tasked with distributing self-reporting Anti-Virus software installation compliance forms to all residents and told the T1 wouldn’t be reconnected until I had collected forms from every single resident (~ 430), even those without computers. After having to be the one to deal with the wrath of the students and explain why this was being done, the IT department decided to reconnect the building the next day after I got back only a fourth of the the forms. And guess who has to keep tracking down the rest of the forms, telling students their ethernet ports will be disabled if they don’t comply by Monday? Gr.

Once the IT guys got over their amazement that I, someone working in Housing, actually knew something about computers and networking, they asked why I wasn’t working in the IT field.

I’ve been frustrated with the IT departments on each of the campuses I’ve attended or worked at, except IU. They were the only ones that seemed to understand the concept of customer service. Most of the other campus IT people I’ve run into want to treat their network and users as if they were part of a discrete, business setting that they can just order around. But the challenge of working with a college campus is that you have a homogeneous group of machines and locations and users with varying knowledge levels. You have to be prepared for the student who asks about his computer’s cup holder (i.e. CDRom drive) AND the student who proactively asks for help configuring IPChains on her Linux box.

It’s exactly those extremes in the types of questions I get asked as a Hall Director (and used to be asked as a librarian) that help keep the job exciting and fresh for me (except until all ~ 430 residents come and ask me 5 times a day when the network is going to be fixed). So I actually think I would enjoy working at a campus Computer Help Desk. While I do know I want to keep working in higher education, I don’t yet know if I’m going to stay in housing, try to move into the IT field, or go back to school for a masters in Student Affairs (and possibly explore academic advising, financial aid, or greek affairs). All I know is that my current position is not reinforcing my love of working on a college campus.

2 responses so far (Respond)

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Wow, they didn’t even give us a chance here. The first inkling they get there’s a virus on your machine, they disable your port and make you download a tool that checks for the latest worms/viruses. We’ve had no slowdown at all.

Matt | 13 Sep 2003
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Yikes. I know how it affected the staff and faculty here, but since it’s still summer, it didnt affect the students much, if at all. Yet. Classes start in 2 weeks. Very scary stuff, with several thousand students moving in. Glad I dont work for the campus networking guys.

Gigamatt | 14 Sep 2003