Committee seeks UA input on campus network

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Imagine a large university, connected by computer systems, networks and databases, with people throughout campus sharing university-wide resources.

This is the information technology utopia the university wants to create, and this Thursday afternoon and Friday morning the UNITE subcommittee of the Information Technology Council wants the help of the campus community.

"We want feedback on the idea and hopefully the endorsement of the campus," said Robert MacArthur, an employee in agriculture communications and chair of the UNITE committee.

The proposal, which attempts to define standards for computing on campus and to integrate the university's computer systems, has already been endorsed by the major computing services on campus, but has yet to meet the important test of the entire campus community, MacArthur said.

"There has been too much computing in the past where people try to dictate what will be done," he said. "We want the campus to be participants. It is our attempt at a democracy."

Martha Gilliland, vice provost of academic affairs and chair of the Information Technology Council, said she agrees the university community should set the university's priorities and "preferences on hardware, software and protocols."

Setting priorities is necessary not only because of financial constraints, but also because the Center for Computing and Information Technology cannot be available to provide guidance on the use of all available programs, but must limit its knowledge to a limited number of university-wide systems, she said.

MacArthur said establishing university-wide standards will also help unify various campus systems and provide more opportunities for users. For example, if all databases on campus were IBM-based and an employee purchased another type of system, they would have difficulty accessing campus databases and networks, MacArthur said. But after UNITE is initiated, someone interested in buying a computer could ask the purchasing department for advice on what type of computer to buy and the department could advise them based on the accepted UNITE standards, which would allow them optimal access to the campus systems, he said.

The UNITE proposals can be read on internet and comments can be sent to the Information Technology members. The public input hearings will be held Thursday from 2-3 p.m. in Student Union Room 256 and Friday from 10-11 a.m. in the Arizona Health Sciences Center Duval Auditorium.

After creating a utopia of interconnected campus computer systems, the Information Technology Council will attempt to spread technology to all areas of the campus.

Within three years access to the internet will be provided in all campus residence halls and the Student Union, Gilliland said. The administration will allocate funds to connect the lines to each hall, but the halls will have to pay to provide access to each room, she said.

"We want to encourage students to buy computers when they come to college," she said. "We will work to create packages with IBM and Mac, where students can make payments on their computer every semester like buying books." She said about half the UA students already own computers.

About $300,000 has also been set aside to provide Internet capabilities to the remaining 30 buildings on campus that do not already have access, she said.

The "modern technology" will also spread into campus classrooms, where professors will be able to bring a disk into the classroom and use their mouse to click through frames which will be shown on a large screen in the classroom or at individual student work stations, Gilliland said. The overheads would then be available on the internet so students could review them at home rather than trying to spend class copying the notes word for word, she said.

Student information kiosks, like the one in the Student Union, will appear in numerous locations across campus to provide "user-friendly" ways for students to deal with administrative databases, Gilliland said. The council also hopes to improve the databases to offer students telephone access to their grades, transcripts and registration.

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