Information Resources Council

Annual Report 2009-10

The Information Resources Council (IRC) met eleven times during 2009-10; membership of the IRC was as follows:  Jennifer Bonner (Biology), Ruth Copans (Library), Beth DuPont (Academic Technologies), Deborah Hall (Studio Art), Ann Henderson (Registrar’s Office and Institutional Research), Susan Kress (Chair and Academic Affairs), Andrew Lichtenberg (Class of 2011), Michelle Paquette (Special Programs), Laura Paul (Management & Business, replacing Joerg Bibow, who was on sabbatical), Justin Sipher (Information Technology), and Mike West (Finance and Administration). 

With a few exceptions, the IRC meetings were open to the entire community. At the first meeting, held on 15 September 2009, the Council discussed the annual report for 2008-2009, noting the accomplishments from the previous year and proposing items for the coming year’s agenda; subsequently, via email, the chair also invited agenda items from the community at large. Topics for the year are listed below with a brief summary of the discussion in each case.  Minutes for all the meetings are available on the IRC website at http://cms.skidmore.edu/irc/index.cfm

IRC Plan, 9-22-09
As customary at the beginning of the year, the Council discussed in an open meeting the IRC Plan, developed in 2001, and not revised since.  It was noted that elements of the IRC Plan were incorporated in the current Strategic Plan.  The group agreed that the IRC Plan held up quite well, but that it would be appropriate to revisit it this year to decide whether any revisions were needed.

Student Information System, 10-13-09
In an open meeting, Justin Sipher and Ann Henderson updated the Council on the status of the replacement of the Oracle Student Information System. [Subsequently, we secured a contract for implementing the Banner Student System from Sungard Higher Education. This implementation will take place over the next 24 months.]

“What You Need To Know about Your Digital Identity,” 10-20-09
In an open meeting, Alex Chaucer (GIS Instructional Technologist), Ruth Copans, Andrew Lichtenberg, and Laura Paul presented a session on the digital footprint created when we post material online and when others post material about us. 

IRC Plan Continued, 11-24-09
In a closed meeting, the Council reviewed the IRC Plan and the action items related to IT in the Strategic Plan. Since President Glotzbach was leading a midpoint review of the Strategic Plan to define the College’s strategic focus for the next five years, it was particularly appropriate to determine whether the IRC Plan was still relevant. The Council decided that it still endorses the current IRC Plan and that major revisions were unnecessary at this time.  During the discussion, it was noted that we need an assessment tool to measure our efforts with respect to information literacy; that we need to maintain good communication with the community about technological updates; and that we need to update all references to CITs in the IRC Plan.

Email and Calendar Services, 12-8-09
In an open meeting, Justin Sipher led a discussion regarding proposed changes to Skidmore’s email and calendar services.  Given delivery and storage challenges, IT has been exploring for some time the implications of outsourcing email and calendar services to Google or Microsoft. IRC had hosted an information session in March, 2009 and subsequently sought volunteers to test the Google and Microsoft systems: 86 faculty, staff and students came forward.  After a test period, a survey was sent to the volunteers; of the 20 respondents, one third preferred Google, one third preferred Microsoft, and one third thought either service would be sufficient for their needs.  While both options could work and are working at other institutions, IT believes that Microsoft will better serve Skidmore’s needs. The move to Microsoft to host email and calendar services will provide greater capacity in IT to focus on other new initiatives.

Elimination of IRC, 2-9-10, 3-9-10, 4-6-10, and 4-20-10
In a closed meeting on February 9th, the IRC discussed the resolution brought by the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) and adopted at the faculty meeting on February 5, 2010, proposing that all committees determine if membership could be reduced by 30 percent.  As this discussion proceeded, questions were raised as to whether IRC still serves a useful role and whether, in fact, the committee should be eliminated. In exploring the question of IRC’s elimination, the IRC held three open meetings (March 9th, April 6th, and April 20th).  IRC also requested consideration of this matter by the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning (CEPP) on February 15th and by the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC) on March 26th.  In preparation for the March 9th IRC open meeting, the Council sent special invitations to those who had served on the IRC in the last 10 years and those who had shown particular interest in teaching with technology. Attendance at the open meeting (beyond the membership of IRC) was not strong, but the IRC received 10 email responses, all supporting the elimination of the IRC.  At that meeting, the IRC reviewed the business that had come before the IRC for the last eight years.

Following stipulations in the Faculty Handbook regarding changes to Part Three of the Faculty Handbook, IRC prepared a proposal for the consideration of FEC (see Appendix for the full text of the proposal).  After FEC had approved the proposal, it was referred to the IPPC on April 30th and to the SGA Senate on May 4th.  Though CEPP’s endorsement was not required by the Faculty Handbook, CEPP members were also consulted, and they approved the proposal via email on April 22nd. Upon the unanimous vote of IPPC and the SGA Senate, the IRC was officially dissolved.

It should be noted here that members of IRC acknowledged that the IRC had served a valuable function for many years in helping the campus move forward responsibly and deliberately in technological matters.  Indeed, IRC members emphasized the need to stay vigilant regarding our progress and asserted that the dissolution of IRC in no way implied any diminution of the central importance of IT on our campus.

Concluding Meeting, 5-4-10
In a closed meeting, Justin Sipher discussed the capital priorities for the 2010-11 academic year.  IRC also reviewed the items discussed this past year, including the proposal to eliminate IRC.   

Footnotes:
The IT policy, Custodianship of Electronic Mail, discussed in open meetings last year and approved by the IRC, was reviewed by legal counsel and referred to IPPC on April 30th for information and implementation. No vote was required, and no concerns were expressed; the policy can now be found on the IT website. Last year, Skidmore in partnership with Bard, Colgate, Hamilton, Union, and Vassar received a grant from the Teagle Foundation to explore the uses of high performance computing in liberal arts settings (See white paper).

Acknowledgements
I am grateful to all the 2009-10 members of IRC for their institutional service.  Special thanks go to guest presenter Alex Chaucer and to IRC members Ruth Copans, Andy Lichtenberg, and Laura Paul, who presented a lively session on the digital footprints we all (often unwittingly) leave.  Special appreciation also goes to Justin Sipher, who orchestrated several sessions, to Ann Henderson, who co-presented the session on the student system, and to Debra Peterson for staffing all meetings and recording the minutes.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Kress
Chair, IRC