Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I've got the IT blues

Let me preface this by saying that the IT department at my school, or any school for that matter, has a difficult job, and that most of the time they do an absolutely stellar job. I have no doubt that running campus IT services is no picnic at all, and I am very grateful for the services and support that IT provides.

(You know that there's a "but" coming, right?)

But, it is very frustrating when that same IT department gets in the way of me doing my job.

There is a piece of technology that I would like to use in one of my classes in the fall. The technology is not new or cutting edge, it runs on standard platforms, and to the best of my knowledge it does not require a rocket scientist to set up and maintain it. I have given a lot of thought to using this technology in my class and know that it is definitely feasible, as others are using this same technology with much success.

The response from our IT department has been infuriating. First, I was passed around from person to person. "Oh, that's so-and-so's area." So-and-so: "Nope, that's Person X's area." Person X: "Talk to Person Y; he's actively working on that." Person Y: "Huh?" Then I was told that we had this technology already, but mysteriously no one is maintaining it or otherwise taking responsibility for it. Finally, someone promised to "get me an account on the server" that hosts this technology....and you guessed it, that hasn't happened yet.

I understand that people are busy, and I certainly don't expect people to drop what they are doing to help me. I understand that this is lower priority than some or many of the other tasks that IT people do. But I know what I want, I'm technically literate, I've been more than nice about the brush-offs, and I'm still getting brushed off. I don't want to play the part of the Prima Donna Faculty Member, but I'm almost at my wit's end.

The ironic part of this is that during the school year, we will hear the constant drumbeat from the same IT department about how faculty should integrate technology into their classes in new and innovative ways, and how IT is "here to serve you". Well, IT department, here's a faculty member who's willing and able to try something new, who's even willing to take some or most of the responsibility for running and maintaining the technology, and you won't even give her the time of day.


Laura said...

I see this all the time in our department. It drives me insane. Basically, I try to do all the legwork on behalf of the faculty member, so that I'm the one getting frustrated, not them. My impression is that people do this passing the buck thing because a) they really don't know what you're talking about b) they're afraid it will be too much work for which they will actually be punished c) they're lazy or d) security. Security can also be a code for "control." My experience is that many people don't install technology for faculty because they don't want to lose control over said technology.

I've done my fair share of passing the buck. If someone calls about an e-mail problem, yeah, I might know the answer, but it's not my job to answer the question. Then again, if I answer the question, I've built a bridge that will be useful later on.

Frankly, I think IT people hide behind policy far too often. The web guy here and I were just saying that we're too small an operation to try to come up with specific lines of authority and help. If secretary A wants to call the web guy about email simply because she's comfortable with him, fine. As he says, it's all about the people.

Unfortunately, many IT people don't feel that way. They'd rather deal with their code and not talk to a person all day, especially one who's giving them more work to do. :)

Mac said...

I see this a lot at the school that I work at too. Most of the time, I end up just configuring a makeshift server myself (If i have the licenses). Most of the time when I talk to the IT people at my school I get the distinct impression that they think the faculty and students are there for their convienience. I tried to be nice at first, but after having enough of that attitude, I have no problem telling them that the students are why we both (the IT people and myself) have jobs. My instruction is what they are counting on therefore any reasonable request I make should be treated seriously. If it is not possible, I want to know why, I am technically competent enough to know if they are feeding me lies.

Jane said...

Laura, thanks for your response. I think the issue in our IT dept is a combination of (b) and (d). Complicating matters is that IT has this really bizarrely strict hierarchy, yet it's not at all clear where responsibility lies for various things. Our IT liaison is awesome, and deals with 95% of my questions/issues....it's the other 5% of the time when I have to go into the IT hierarchy that I end up with a splitting headache from the frustration. :)

Mac, I too get the sense that IT sometimes treats faculty as an inconvenience, moreso than it does the students even. I do like this line: "My instruction is what they are counting on therefore any reasonable request I make should be treated seriously." I may use that in the future; thanks!