IT in Higher Education
Charles Phelps, Provost
University of Rochester
Why We Do It
• Graduate (Masters, PhD, etc.)
• Professional (MD, MBA, JD, MPH, etc.)
• Including scholarly communication
• Increasingly collaborative
• Takes place at all levels, not just
Research I universities
An Economist’s Context
US higher education the best in the
world (for now!)
• Students, faculty, research grants,
Provostial observation: It’s a jungle
All facets of this competition rely on
IT in modern higher education
The Modern Student
Everything is digital
“Text” is a drag!
Why isn’t it free?
What do you mean “I can’t”?
• And just try to stop me!
Black holes for bandwidth
“If you don’t have it, I’ll go elsewhere.”
HR, Finance, Student Records,
Alumni relations and development,
purchasing, grants & contracts, etc.
• Voice, data (including media)
Access to data for decision support
as well as ongoing operations
Things We Should Provide
Teaching and learning support
• Faculty often the weak link here
• Very high bandwidth, reliable, redundant
• Easy to use digital repositories (library?)
• Digital access to archived content
It’s not “the library”. The world is the library!
Community building tools
• Example: CVillage, IM, chat rooms
• Both for students, faculty and alumni
E Biz (all across the board) Share systems!
Things We Should Provide
Education about what’s right and wrong
(file sharing, etc.)
Reliable, safe, secure, and redundant
computing and communication
Laboratory for the world
• Internet I2 Lambda rail ??
School’s face to the world:
• www.myschool.edu Who does it?
Reliable and easy backup services
Some Big Concerns
• Intrusion detection and prevention
• Authentication and authorization
• Hardware gets cheaper, software more
• Building in R&R; support more complex
Legal vs. illegal activity
• Especially P2P and related activities
Growing risks to basic operations
Security Issues (elaborated)
Ethos of openness and free speech
• Issues of privacy
History of dispersed control
• History of “local” choices for desktop.
• Networking complicated this.
• Wireless makes it far worse.
• Getting agreement on policy
And enforcing it!
Some Policy Areas to Consider
Must every user be identified?
How to charge (if at all) for network use?
Who can run a wireless LAN?
Who can run a server, and for what
What to do about P2P transmissions?
Can departments hire their own IT
Who gets to contract with vendors?
Cost Issues (elaborated)
Moore’s Law helps
• Costs of computation and storage falling
But….. Gates and Ellison are two of the
richest men in the world
• “Ver.n no longer supported . . . .”
• Will open source alternatives help?
Reliance demands redundancy
Competition in higher education for faculty
and students pushes the boundary
Illegal, Immoral, and Fattening
Students heavily involved in illegal file
sharing; they see it as their “right”
• Possible liability on ISPs
• Responsibilities as teachers of future leaders
• Legal alternatives (Napster, CFlix, etc.)?
Endless demand for bandwidth from P2P
software (fatter doesn’t mean faster)
Virulent source of viruses, worms, etc.
Much P2P traffic is porn, some illegal
External Attacks Too
Hacking: “It’s a small world after all”
“Just for fun” malicious attacks
Due diligence rules changing
• Sarbanes Oxley comes to higher ed
E Biz complicates the matter
• Student, financial, medical records all
have value to others
And so does wireless
Partnerships You Should Consider
The library (scholarly communication)
PR office (www.myschool.edu)
Development office (alumni links)
Deans’ offices (faculty web pages)
Dean of Students (community building)
Legal office (DMCA processes)
Everybody involved in eBiz
Internal and external auditors
The provost (for $) JUST KIDDING!
Think Long Term Too
Begin to build “guiding principles” for
everything to reduce complexity
• Implications for platforms, personnel mix,
redundancy in hardware, etc.
Build in renewal cycle for software and
hardware in budgets
• It’s like deferred maintenance on physical
Create mechanisms to get buy-in from key
decision makers on campus (IT council?)
Some Guiding Principle Examples
All systems shall have browser interface
All data shall be stored in a relational data
base (non proprietary?)
Support for Windows, MacOS, Unix, and
All eBiz shall use Verisign protocol
Directory will rely on LDAP
Use “shibboleth” as standard tool
Graded security as risk increases
IT leaders must be innovative,
frugal, and responsible risk takers
Build in fiscal and people capability
for experimentation, innovation
Work intensively with academic
leaders on campus
Don’t forget the fundamental
purpose: teaching and learning!