Brandon Moulton / Equinox Staff

Austin Cook

Equinox Staff

Keene State Faculty and Staff are growing increasingly frustrated with the Information Technologies (IT) group’s inability to provide them with needed hardware and software. Costs and budgetary limitations are a contributing factor, but not the only problem according to Laura Seraichick, the Chief Information Officer at Keene State.

The University System of New Hampshire has hired the Strata Information Group (SIG) to study the needs, evaluate the situation and provide a recommendation.

Seraichick explained that the problem is not a new one, as costs have continually increased each year, leaving all the schools within the University of New Hampshire System (UNH, Plymouth State, Granite, Keene State) struggling to balance IT budgets with faculty requirements. Each university manages its IT Operations independently, and this adds to the costs. This is where SIG comes in. SIG is helping the university system design a new means to deliver IT services across all of the campuses and consolidate operations and costs. Ultimately, Keene’s goal is to best serve the students by containing costs and provide better services.

“All of us are short on resources. This is why faculty and staff are feeling their machines are not getting refreshed frequently enough,” Seraichick said.

Seraichick said she understands that faculty is upset, but the wait is purely budgetary, “Quite frankly, IT is struggling because of the budget cuts that occurred in the first phase. Also, a drop in enrollment has reduced incoming revenue. As we have had to balance our budget, we have had to cut funds that were set aside to perform the refresh cycles. We were on a five-year refresh cycle for faculty workstations. We had to have a year where we postponed those as we just couldn’t spend that money, and it’s going to take another year or so to get out of that.” Seraichick speculated that SIG will recommend consolidating the Keene State Data centers and servers. “Big infrastructure systems cost a lot of money to maintain.”

Seraichick said that utilizing the SAS (Software As a Service) and the cloud strategy could help reduce the footprint of Keene’s data center. A cloud model enables the universities to share resources and manage software through subscription. This minimizes the hardware, software and administrative costs of the systems as they are all shared.

This is not just a budgetary problem, as explained by Associate Professor at Keene State College Mark Timney during the 478th College Senate Meeting.

Timney raised concern regarding IT’s policies of distributing computers to Keene faculty as identical images. He explained that different faculty members have profoundly different needs, and that IT policy needs to recognize those differences.

“Some faculty barely use their computers for anything more than email or word processing. On the other hand, for journalism, I have to edit video, sound and animation. My colleagues in graphic design and film are in a similar situation. It’s become very problematic for us to get machines powerful enough. For example, right now the last upgrade to Adobe Premiere won’t even start on my desktop in my office. That’s how hurt we are. We have to fight for those computers and pay for them out of our own budgets.  In my case, I paid for my computer out of my own pocket because I can’t get it here. I hope in the future that there will be some sort of acknowledgment or arrangement made to deliver faculty computers that actually work for them in the way they need them to work for them,” Timney said.

In a written statement, Associate Professor of Graphics Design at Keene State College   Randall Hoyt agreed with Timney and said, “The graphic design program needs professional graphic design software capable handling large image files, video and animation. The graphic design profession primarily uses Apple Macintosh hardware, which is more expensive than the garden variety Windows box. The Adobe suite is the only game in town, so we spend thousands in subscription fees a year. We need this software and hardware because graphic design is a pre-professional program preparing students to enter the job market as designers. To attempt to teach our students without the tools of the trade that prepare our students to enter the workforce would be both impossible and negligent.”

Hoytt also raised concerns of a five year replacement cycle and wrote, “While the five year replacement cycle is too long to keep the hardware up to date with the software, we have been fortunate to be able to do so much with what we have. I think Adobe should consider releasing leaner upgrades, however. Every upgrade seems to demand more and more of the processor.”

Hoyt confirmed that on occasions, the Graphic Arts Department used funds from their budget to meet their facility’s needs and requirements.

Hoyt noted that IT provides him and his department a great service.  He wrote,”They are great. I find the staff extremely responsive to classroom needs. They work with us closely on upgrades and are ready to offer assistance within minutes in the event of a classroom emergency.”

Students also seem very satisfied with IT’s support of their needs. Nathan Tabenkin, a sophomore computer science major at Keene State said, “IT has a ticketing system that seems to work pretty quickly and they are pretty good at figuring out the issue. As long as the computers have Microsoft office and all the other things we need such as Chrome, I  don’t think upgrading computers are a big issue. I do think there should be a list from teachers of software apps and programs that need to be installed in the computer lab for kids to use.”

According to Seraichick, SIG is still in the information gathering stage and will not have a report done until the end of the year.

Austin Cook can be contacted at acook@kscequinox.com