By Kaitlyn McCormick
Many Rider professors had to quickly pivot their lesson plans on the first day of classes last week as students and faculty were met with an onslaught of technical difficulties following restructures and cuts to the school’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) Department.
Film and television professor Cynthia Lucia had to alter her class on Wednesday due to a faulty projector bulb in Fine Arts 205 that prevented her from showing movie clips to her film students.
“My whole lesson was sort of planned around showing film clips on my DVDs with chapters marked,” Lucia said before detailing how the class ended up relying on their own silenced devices and pressing play at the same time while relying on the sound from her laptop.
Lucia said the technicians who came to help her classroom’s issues were “very responsive… I think that maybe they were caught by surprise as well, and I know that there is a real problem with understaffing right now.”
Communications professor Jessi Oliano also had projection issues in the same classroom for her history and Principles of Graphic Design class on Wednesday, which was “really unfortunate” due to the amount of visuals she had prepared to share with her students.
“We’re such a visual department in general … so [not] having those visuals to use as examples is very hard,” Oliano said. “Luckily I brought my laptop … and I walked around the room and showed examples, and that is very not ideal.”
While the issue has since been resolved, she did note that the experience was frustrating, especially on the first day of classes.
Junior graphic design major Jenna Krauss had multiple classes in different rooms that were clouded by technology issues.
Krauss explained, “It just seemed a little ridiculous to me that it was the first day and already so many professors are running into problems in these classes.”
“It’s frustrating, I think, probably both to teachers and students,” Krauss continued.
Unlike Lucia’s recount, Krauss described the technicians who came to help Oliano’s class as very “hot and heavy.”
“They completely disrupted professor Oliano’s class,” Krauss said.
Technology and system issues were just one of the many topics on the bargaining table between Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the university’s administration as they continue to hash out a heated and extended contract negotiation.
AAUP President and communication professor David Dewberry said that when faculty are faced with these issues, it is in turn “hard to fulfill the educational mission” they commence in the classroom.
Rider’s Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Jim Hartman sent a communication to the university’s faculty and staff on Sept. 7 regarding the issues.
“Over the summer the Rider OIT team has now become an integral component of the Ellucian Managed Services team that will continue to service the IT needs of Rider as Rider itself continues to evolve and change,” the statement read.
The communication also explained that the university is “in the process of rebuilding and refocusing a smaller IT organization to support a changing Rider community,” now backed by Ellucian resources.
The email included bullets outlining a 24/7 call center, information regarding “support of teaching and learning,” including classroom support hotlines, as well as additional information about technology support and cybersecurity support and management.
Also outlined in the email was what the department needs from faculty and staff: “Given the changes we all are going through, it will be very difficult to provide last minute services beyond break-fix. … We need you to let us know as early as possible about events, potential issues and needs you may have upcoming. We continue to receive last minute requests for services, and we want the community to understand that this isn’t sustainable,” the statement read.
While Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Douglas McCrea was unavailable for comment, Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown provided a written statement about Ellucian and Rider’s OIT.
“The Ellucian team has committed to maintaining open lines of communication with the Rider community as the work evolves,” the statement included. “This new relationship and model of service is ultimately in the best interest of Rider that will continue to help the university move forward and support our academic mission. We ask for everyone’s continued patience as the work to improve technology services to our community progresses.”
According to Dewberry, the outsourcing of Rider’s IT department was just another bad decision on the part of the administration.