Tech Tuesday: The Failure of UNIT

I know that feel, bro...

I know that feel, bro…

When you try to get any work done, take a Respondus test, or just surf the internet in Bartley, you are rolling the dice. Will VU Mobile work for me? Everyday, many students lose that roll and find their machines trapped in the endless loop of “Additional Information is Needed to Connect to VU Mobile.” This problem, made all the more infuriating by our upcoming final exams, is far from a new occurrence. All semester, the University’s crumbling network architecture has waged a guerrilla war against students, with Bartley Hall being the site of the war’s bloodiest battle. And what has University Information Technology (aka UNIT), the guardians of our digital frontier, done to help students? Nothing productive.

Over the course of the semester, this reporter, being a Business student and thus often working in Bartley, has called or emailed UNiT support to report the problem on several occasions. The line delivered from the support staff member is almost always “Yes, we are already aware of this issue and it is being investigated.” Upon asking for an estimated time that connectivity will be restored, the support staff member will say that there is no estimate available for the public yet, but that service should be restored by the end of the day. Great, that’s a real comfort to a student who needs the network to be reliable right now, not at hours and hours from now. It has become apparent that either UNIT does not know how to fix the problem or perhaps cannot fix the problem.

Oh how the mighty have fallen! After being named the Most Wired School in the country by PC Magazine for 2007, Villanova fell in the 2008 rankings to 15th. The fall since then has been even worse. Now, it seems as though the only way you can have any confidence in your ability to connect to the internet while on campus is to have a mobile hotspot or to use your UNIT-provided special green LAN cable (which so many of us have lost by now), if you can find an ethernet port on campus that is both convenient and working… It certainly seems as though the priorities of the administration are out of order when millions are spent on improving what was already an incredibly beautiful campus  while the school’s connection to the internet, a key tool for learning in this digital age, falls apart. What is the point of trying to attract more students to a university that has proven itself to not be committed to putting the best educational resources at the disposal of its students and professors?

If the problem requires a fix so large that it would cause further unnecessary disruption to students and said fix will be made over Christmas break, then, by all means, come out and admit that, UNIT! Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately, this is not the policy of UNIT. Claiming to have “fixed” the problem, either in emails sent to students who reporting the issue or in an all-school public back-patting for a temporary fix on the weekend a month ago, is an insult to the Augustinian values of this institution and violates the spirit of our motto: Veritas, Unitas, Caritas. Every time this reporter has alerted UNIT of the daily Bartley outage and then has received an email some hours later saying that the incident has been “resolved” by UNIT technicians, it seems to be a lacking, since the words “for now” should really follow “resolved.”

It is time for UNIT to take ownership of their failure in this, their Bay of Pigs, by leveling with the rest of the University community and explaining what is happening. As stated previously, if it is an issue that would require work so long in duration and wide in scope as to unnecessarily inconvenience students, faculty, and staff further, then UNIT’s plight is understandable, but only if they are honest about it. If UNIT does not know how to fix the issue or lacks the resources to provide a more permanent solution than the temporary Band-Aids they are providing now, the community will be understanding, but only if the community is treated with honesty and respect. Unfortunately, the members of this community are being kept in the dark by a University department that does not respect them enough to be honest about this issue, and that is a shame.

A “mea culpa” from UNIT with an honest, detailed explanation of the authentication issues that plague campus daily and a brief description of the steps currently being taken to try and eliminate the problem would be one of the most admirable gestures made by any administrative office in this reporter’s three and a half years at Villanova University. The majority of students, faculty, and staff would respect such a move and UNIT would no longer be an acronym spat out by affected users like a curse word. Be honest. People are more understanding than you might think, UNIT…

Until then, this reporter is forced to use FoxFi on a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III to connect to the internet on the third floor of Bartley in order to make this blog post. Come on, UNIT!


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