Tech fee likely next on the list

Photo courtesy of Steven Cooper

If the internet goes down on the Vancouver campus, many services come to a standstill. The campus would lose its public website and the ability to use Blackboard or myWSU. The campus phones wouldn’t work—even for 911 calling. Last May the campus lost its primary internet connection for 27 hours in the middle of the week, but none of those things happened.

“Last year the Chancellor’s office approved funding for second network connection to the campus,” explained Washington State University Vancouver Chief Information Officer Michael Stamper. “Just like you have an internet provider for your home internet, this is like adding a second one. We did it for redundancy to have better stability in our network.”

The second network was fully enabled March. During the May outage, it kept the campus running as normal.

The second network is only one of several projects the IT Department has implemented in the last year.

One of the IT’s most noticeable projects during the last year has been improving how students access Wi-Fi on campus. “In January we rolled out a new published Wi-Fi network called WSU Wireless,” said Stamper. “This is the same name and Wi-Fi network that is at all of the WSU campuses. For the first time ever in the history of WSU we have the same onboarding process. If you were to go to Pullman after logging in here, it would automatically recognize you after arriving in Pullman.”

Prior to the new system, students were supposed to use a network called WSUV WI-FI that had a more complicated and labors access process. Students had to first log on to the other guest network to download a certificate. Now it’s as simple as entering your network ID and password, explained Stamper. The new system provides security comparable to a password protected home Wi-Fi network, he said.

Despite the major upgrade, Stamper says the department is nowhere near stopping work on Wi-Fi. “I don’t think Wi-Fi is ever going to be done—at least not for many years,” he said.

The IT Department is currently working to expand and improve Wi-Fi on campus. “Pretty much all the Wi-Fi we have is technology that is from a few years ago,” Stamper said. A few months ago the campus hired Infrastructure Services Manager Mac Mintz. According to Stamper, one of his primary responsibilities is helping develop short and long-term plans for the network. Among other topics the plan will include proposals dealing with fiber between buildings, the speed of the connection to campus and the access points around campus.

“In the spring and the summer our infrastructure services team was doing an analysis of the coverage,” said Stamper. The team moved and added access points in some areas to improve the reach of Wi-Fi.

Stamper said his department has recently been using temporary solutions to meet the increased network demand during large campus events. During the solar eclipse, IT added temporary access points for the people in The Quad. “During the eclipse, we had 1,400 Wi-Fi connections on four access points,” said Stamper.

Technology Fee Continues to Develop

During spring semester of last year, Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver Senate passed a resolution authorizing a new technology fee to fund technology improvements on campus. This semester it was accessed at $20 for every fulltime undergraduate student. According to Stamper, the IT Department will likely be assisting with the implementation of projects funded by the fee in the coming year.

According to ASWSUV President Jose Scott, the Executive Department is currently in the process of helping put together a committee that will decide how the tech fee funds are spent.

In addition to Michael Stamper, the committee will consist of four students, one faculty member, and one student affairs representative. “Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Nancy Youlden will likely be our Student Affairs representative,” said Scott. For the faculty member, Scott says they will most likely select someone from Faculty Senate. When they select the four students, Scott said they will be looking for “differing perspectives.” That means at least some students on the committee will be students not serving in student government, he said.

Scott said his department is currently creating a pool of potential candidates, which they will then send to Chancellor Mel Netzhammer sometime before September 15 for selection and approval. The Senate resolution gives the chancellor appointment power for the committee, explained Scott.

Once the committee is approved, it will meet and begin planning allocations for fall projects, said Scott. No part of student government—including Senate—can dictate which projects to fund. The technology fee committee will have full discretion over allocation. The committee will have to move faster, however, because allocations for fall semester have to be presented for final approval to the WSUV Board of Regents by the end of October, said Scott.

Because the committee isn’t fully formed yet, Scott said he isn’t certain exactly when and how the committee will allocate funds for spring, but it may be at the end of fall semester.

Sometime during this entire process, Scott said Senate will be reviewing the original resolution authorizing the tech fee to clarify how it should be implemented. “The Senate resolution will be more logistical than specific to how funds will be spent. It will address basic policy questions like who pays and who benefits,” explained Scott. Whatever clarifying resolution Senate passes will likely apply to the Tech Fee Committee starting in spring.

After this year, the Tech Fee Committee will follow the same schedule as the Student Services and Activities Fee Committee and allocate funds for fall during the previous spring. It is a unique situation this year, explained Scott, because for this one time the committee will allocate funds for fall during fall semester.

Scott also cautioned that it’s important not to confuse the tech fee with S&A fees. Both are fees accessed to students, but the tech fee is separate. Unlike S&A fees it can be spent for academic as well as non-academic needs, explained Scott.

Scott said he doesn’t want to speculate on which projects the committee will decide to spend funds because ultimately the decision is not up to him. However, he said he does know the committee will give a lot of weight to student surveys which, among other things, have shown that printing is one service students want improved. Ultimately, there are numerous areas in which in which the committee might decide to invest and we’ll have wait to see what the committee decides, said Scott.

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