Minutes, October 16, 2019

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held Wednesday, October 16, 2019 from 11a-12:30p in Library 143. The attendees were:

  1. Stefano Costanzi (CAS)
  2. Nancy Davenport (LIB)
  3. Terry Fernandez (OIT)
  4. Jennifer Gumbrewicz (by phone)
  5. Patrick Jackson (SIS)
  6. Kiho Kim (CTRL)
  7. Joseph Mortati (KSB)
  8. Rick Semitian (SPEXs)
  9. Scott Talan (SOC)
  10. Mauro Tiso (CAS)
  11. Stef Woods (CAS)
  12. Brian Yates (CAS)
  13. Bobby Zitzmann (AUSG)
  14. Guest: Jim Merrifield (CAS, Director, Facilities Administration & Information Technology)
  15. Guest: Zach Prichard (SOC, Technology Manager)
  16. Guest: Laura Ragusa (SOC, Assistant Dean, Budget and Technology)

The following items of business were discussed.

General: The September 2019 minutes were approved.

The Committee approved the bylaws. The bylaws have been forwarded to Faculty Senate for final approval.

Thanks to Mauro and Brian for their willingness to run for the Vice Chair role. Online voting will continue through Friday, October 18th.

Upgraded Classrooms: Upgraded classrooms and event space involve the upgrade and maintenance of A/V technology, rugs, furniture, whiteboards, painting, and accessibility. Lead, asbestos, mildew, and mold abatement and removal also fall under this category.

The Classroom Improvement Committee (CIC), chaired by the Registrar, designated classrooms as locally-controlled versus centrally-controlled. From a funding standpoint, all classroom improvements/equipment/furnishings for centrally-controlled classrooms are funded through one budget allocation to the CIC. Funding for improvements/equipment/furnishings for locally-controlled classrooms is the responsibility of the controlling unit. On February 21, 2018, Jim Merrifield contacted Vi Ettle in the Provost’s Office to inquire how the policy would impact the outfitting of CAS rooms that were previously covered by AU.

Jim, Laura and Zack shared how this is an issue for CAS and SOC in particular. CAS and SOC are responsible for locally-controlled classrooms and event space without the budget and resources to handle complaints, upgrades and maintenance. Laura shared that these upgrades include much more than just the purchase and maintenance of specialized technology required for SOC classrooms.

Laura shared that the RISE initiative rightly eliminated lab/tech fees for students, and that AU had agreed to give schools the money. However, the base hasn’t increased from the initial budget cycle, and schools are now receiving less money than they need.

SOC has six-seven full-time staff members and 30 student workers to staff McKinley and computer labs. CAS has two full-time staff members for A/V and classroom support, and one full-time staff member for Katzen. CAS and SOC split the game lab. There is a question as to who will handle these things for the new Hall of Science.

KSB and SPEXs have a revenue-centered model in which they are responsible for rooms, but not technology.

The Library is responsible for all classes not under local control. Kogod has invited the Library in to make classrooms meet that standard. Nancy reported that the Library isn’t getting extra money to maintain the most-used building on campus, MGC. AU A/V does respond to faculty calls, even in locally-controlled classroom space. Nancy noted that there are some things in standard classrooms that are interchangeable, while others (theaters, labs, etc.) are so specialized, that the Library can’t manage them easily.

Committee members noted that it’s tough to know whether a room is locally or centrally-controlled.

There was a shared concern that planning and budgets need to be more forward-thinking and less reactive. There appears to also be a need to communicate clearly who controls what and determine the available resources. Technology, money and staff need to be built into workflows.

One question was whether locally-controlled classrooms are about scheduling or what’s in the room. There is never the case in which only one type of pedagogy is used in a classroom.

Terry suggested the possibility of service-level agreements/MOUs to define roles and responsibilities. These agreements would improve communication and be a constant when staff changes. These agreements could address the expectations and possible roles for the Library, Facilities and Risk Management.

Jen suggested that we come up with a plan to figure out what’s next and how we best can serve students. The Vice Chair will set up a shared document with questions and recommendations in advance of our next meeting. The hope is that CIS makes a recommendation on this issue this semester.

Blackboard Photo Rosters: Joseph discussed the history of the Blackboard roster. 95% of students have an image in BB. There is an option to include their ID photo, an uploaded photo, or opt out of having a photo altogether. Joseph showed the members his own roster binder in which he cuts and pastes photos for all of his classes himself. He has found this useful in helping students to feel welcome, and he adds their year and area of study to the page. JHU and UMD provide these printed photo rosters to their instructors at the beginning of each semester.

Stefano clarified that pictures are uploaded on Blackboard twice a year so first-year students won’t have photos in the beginning of the semester. Mauro commented that the Blackboard roster is not updated enough so that students may be listed on the roster who have dropped/withdrawn from the class.

Patrick shared that Canvas had a default photo option pulled from the other university system. He said that discussion boards featured a thumbnail photo much like Facebook. Canvas has the option to have a personal profile page or individual instructors can request that for students using Blackboard. Bobby noted that it’s not widespread for students to know about these things so it should be clearly communicated with them. Joseph said that these printed rosters could be sent to faculty who don’t use Blackboard and won’t use Canvas robustly.

Rick expressed concern that photos might go to an outside vendor and wondered whether that would be a problem for DACA students.

Stef indicated concern that photo rosters could lead to grading bias and recommended that there be some suggestions for how to use these rosters appropriately, if they are provided to faculty.

Should the Registrar take the initiative on this issue? Is this a matter for University Counsel to weigh in on with respect to DACA students?

Terry commented that WCL has provided photo rosters to faculty in the past, but noted that law school exams are graded with student ID numbers, not names.

We discussed how follow up might be appropriate with the Registrar, once that office is fully staffed. Rick will follow up with Mary Clark to determine the parameters (possible DACA or privacy concerns). Mauro will follow up with Scott Vanek to determine how long it takes for Blackboard to sync with the Registrar’s rosters in Colleague and any alternative options.

Recruiter: Brian discussed the numerous problems his department has encountered using Recruiter for graduation admissions. Recruiter is arduous, clunky, and has limited functionality in terms of searching for applicants and sharing notes between reviewers. Stefano and Jen agreed that Recruiter is difficult to use with Jen noting that her program prints out PDFs of the applications and only uses the system to enter decisions. Brian will follow up with Chris Wilkins, OIT Director, CRM Systems, to express concern about Recruiter and learn about possible alternatives.

HTML Banner: Terry reported that the OIT has been evaluating possible additions to spam filters to prevent phishing emails. This request came from the administration after several employees received phishing emails, followed the instructions in those emails, and ended up sending their paychecks to fraudulent accounts. OIT conducted a pilot program for a month in which an HTML banner is placed on all emails that are sent from an account without an American.edu address. The pilot was found to work well. Members expressed the following concerns: 1) how many emails faculty receive from non-AU email accounts; 2) that this might be stigmatizing to faculty who use non-AU email addresses; and 3) that this still might not be effective in stopping phishing. We also discussed whether trusted users could be flagged, and whether this would have any impact in day-to-day communications.

The meeting was adjourned.