Thursday, July 21, 2011

Administrative logic

Because I teach computer science, I automatically get a new PC for my office every three years. Because I teach at a state community college, the old PC that gets taken off my desk would normally be dumped in a state warehouse and ultimately destroyed, because they simply can't consider the possibility of, say, selling it to make money for the state and help someone else (such as one of our many financially struggling students) save money. But because I teach CIS I can request to keep my old desktop PC so that my students can occasionally actually tinker with a PC without the wrath of our IT department coming down on their heads, and I habitually make this request even if I have no specific need for it in any of my current courses.

Because I teach CIS I'm regularly required to learn new versions of software, and my plan for my summer break included making time to finally learn about Windows Server 2008. I'd planned on borrowing the old PC from my desk which had been sitting in my office for over a year, unused, and my department  chair agreed to that plan. I asked IT if I could also borrow a monitor and mouse, and that's when all hell broke loose. Apparently, there are absolutely no circumstances under which an employee may take a regular computer off campus -- this I learned in a meeting I was called into which included the Dean of Instruction and the head of IT.

Their solution? Since we're allowed to take home laptop PCs, I can take home one of the brand new high-end laptops that they just purchased, and keep it for the summer. It doesn't matter that the PC I'd hoped to bring home was worth maybe 1/10th of the one they gave me, or that there is so much greater risk of something happening to a laptop, or that laptops weren't really meant to be configured as servers. We can take home laptops, but can't take home desktops, period.

Is anyone else plagued by administrative decisions and policies that make absolutely no sense?


  1. If you broke the clunker down into parts, you could sneak it off campus and the IT morons would be none the wiser....their "anti-desktop theft" rule has to be at least 15 years old, back when the desk machines were more common than the laptops and far more powerful. A TRaSh-80 model I is beyond the ken of your IT people.

  2. "Administrative logic" reminds me of the old joke about "military intelligence."

  3. Yes. At one school, I was the only one without a printer in my office. For five years, I've offered to bring in one from home, and even supply my own ink and paper. But no, I can't. The system is locked down. Only an IT goon can install the printer driver, and that's simply "not possible" to do on "personal property." I've asked if I could purchase a printer from my budget, but was denied. Budget is for instructional materials only. I argued that I'm printing instructional materials. Received blank stares. So I had go sulk into someone else's office, and "ask permission" to print to their workstation. I worked with some real irritating bitches, one who actually said no to printing off some class rosters, because she worked in a different department, and "That toner and paper you'd use comes out of our budget."

    At my current job, I'm a piece of shit adjunct. We have absolutely no workstation at all in our (shared) office. By shared, I mean 25 of us rotate through, sometimes four or five of us at a time, shoved in an old storage closet. Students line up in the hall, as we can only fit one extra body in at a time. We students ask to take a look at their grade, there's no way for us to do that. The only computers we have access to are across campus, in a faculty workroom. Students aren't allowed in the workroom. I could bring my personal laptop from home, but we are not allowed to access the server or internet from our own machines.

    Lord help me, when I have a computer-based lab component for a student to make up, or get help on during office hours. My department chair shrugs, "Do the best you can." I have to shrug and turn them away.

    Speaking of lab components, I have one class of 25. Three hours a week, we're in a lab to do aural training and pronunciation work. Unfortunately, there are only 16 functioning computers. And it's not a listening lab, it's just a regular computer lab, where students from other classes/departments continually burst in, interrupting us, looking for a place to work. Despite the DO NOT DISTURB - CLASS IN SESSION sign on the door. And of these 16 computers, they work only intermittently. Some will have audio, others will not. It varies from day to day. Both IT and the department chair shrugs, "Make the best of it." She suggested I just cut the lab component completely, and just lecture in there (on top of the classroom lecture that FOLLOWS this lab - oh yes, our break time involves us walking across campus together to our classroom). Is there an open classroom closer to this lab? Well, yes, but for some reason, I'm not allowed to use it.

    I teach mostly international students, and they are surprised and a little disgusted at how poor the facilities are at our very large community college, especially in comparison to their home institutions, and in comparison to the shiny brochure they had received...

  4. Yes, AdjunctSlave, to "administrative logic." Why didn't I think of that?

    All I can say to Granny Geek and Frankity is: [slack-jawed stare, slight head shake].

    No, there's more. Frankity, how can your chair suggest cutting out the lab component to a language class? Didn't the college hand you an official course outline that you have to follow, with only minor tweaks? Also, CC accreditation these days is tied to "Student Learning Outcomes" (SLOs) which may be the pedagogical flavor of the month, but scare the bejeebers out of administrators. If "aural training and pronunciation work" are SLOs, then the college is supposed to provide adequate resources to help students achieve them.

    You might be able to improve the situation by contacting the Academic Senate at that school.

    As for Granny Geek's IT problem: [slack-jawed stare].

  5. Our university will NOT let us buy a laptop with research funds - not even if the funds are from a general research budget that has no designated use, apart from being a perk for outstanding performance. We can however RENT a laptop, even if its costs more to rent than buy.

  6. @Frankity
    That's just beyond stupid. You have my authority to crucify the stupidest admin to ugliest bit of outdoor art on campus; remember to use those six inch cement nails or he/she/it will get loose. Either that or club `em to death with one of those old Epsom three foot dot matrix printers....examples must be made.

  7. In terms of academic IT support and policy, there's only one summary phrase needed:

    DIE IT, DIE!

  8. "Is anyone else plagued by administrative decisions and policies that make absolutely no sense?"

    Of course. We all are. Administrators are like the punchline of that old saw about the scorpion and the frog.

    They can't help it. They're scorpions. It's their nature.

  9. On our campus IT'S stands for intermittent technology services. I've been told that I can no longer use our work study budget to pay students to do basket weaving research during the academic year or summer because it is not fair to faculty in other departments. I have tenure though, so I'm not going to stop.

  10. Stupid autocorrect. ITS, not IT'S.

  11. I screwed up; they're actually Epson printers not "Epsom" printers....hit `em over the head with a Commodore 64 instead.

  12. @Ekaterina,
    Yes, I did get a course outline. It mandates "lab time," but not how the lab should be used. We could go and dance a jig around the dying computers for 90 minutes, and fulfill the "lab time." It was suggested that I assess my students' speaking skills individually during lab time and office hours, rather than having them record their responses. And if I did that, and I wanted them to have peer feedback, it was suggested I bring in my own video camera from home.

    Oh, and right now, SLOs are "optional" to follow in my department, and "for statistical purposes only." To note, I work with a certain state's largest CC system. Our institution is often hung up high as an "example" for others... on what they SHOULD be doing. bwhahahha

    @Strelnikov, please bring your own rusty nails, for we shall conquer this problem together. Peer Collaboration.

    I'm very glad to not be teaching a lab-component class this fall.

  13. IT flakes at my 3rd rate public university decided to pay millions of dollars for thumb-twiddling software with the claim that it would be supported. When I couldn't twiddle my thumbs with the software, I was told that IT flakes didn't have the time or resources to provide support for the Linux version. It took a month for me to solve the problem myself. I sent a message to the IT bastards informing them that I had solved the problem but that I didn't have the time or resources to provide support for the Linux version.

  14. Because my university believes that it owns all of the information that is put on faculty computers, I don't use the computers they give to me for anything other than installing operating systems that annoy them. This has required me to pay for my own computers and web-hosting service (which would be hard for an adjunct), but I get to laugh at the shit other faculty put up with from IT morons.

  15. I have a t-shirt, picked up from a LinuxWorld conference, that reads "Taking the SH out of IT." Unfortunately, our IT department has historically pounded as much SH into their plan as possible. You are slack-jawed at being told to take the lab out of a language course? How about an IT department that (without any prior warning to the faculty) set all the lab PC so that no one could download anything from the Internet? Or an IT department that tried to convince me that I could teach network administration just fine without Internet access, since giving our classroom Internet access is just too dangerous, even though a firewall? Or how about that now the CIS department can't install anything on our own PCs - we have to call IT in to install every bit of software that we need, and I make sure to need a LOT of little piddly stuff each semester. And how about being told that I had to find a way to make due with only 3G of storage space, despite my PC having 50G free space, but OH WAIT we're no longer allowed to save files anywhere on the local PC it has to be on the shared network drive, and OH, all those disk images I need for my classes? Well I need to just put them on an external drive, but OH WAIT, they've set it up so that my PC will not recognize an external hard drive!


    To be fair, our IT department just left my dept chair's and my jaws dropping in that same meeting where I was told to take home the laptop -- we did finally get them to commit to getting a sufficient quantity of sufficiently large external hard drives for our network lab, AND to giving us the server-quality machines that they're replacing that are only 3 years old AND to upgrading our PCs to 4G RAM AND to buying us a rack and whatever else we need so that our students can actually see what a real server-quality system looks like instead of always running server software on a low-end desktop.


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