Summary of the Hawkins' Report on
The Disposition of Information Resources at Skidmore College

 

1. The deployment of information technology at Skidmore College is extensive, and reflects the successful implementation of a plan that exhibits sound vision. Brian Hawkins' perception of information resources at the College is summarized nicely by the following quote from his report of February 18, 1998: "The College has moved from a position well behind its competitors, to a position that is with or ahead of these other schools in supporting undergraduate and faculty needs with regard to information technology. Skidmore should take great pride in these accomplishments."

2. The College needs to review and perhaps revise the governance for campus-based information technology. While such revision should probably await the arrival and consideration of the next president of the College, discussion of this issue is an increasingly important matter that deserves attention now. There are growing faculty concerns about the level of financial commitment to information technology, and about the role of this technology in delivering the College curriculum. A stronger, more clearly perceived voice from the academic side of the house needs to influence strategic choices in information technology, and to assess the significance of those choices in the context of other strategic choices that the College must make.

3. The role of the Information Resources Council needs strengthening. In particular, it should build communications and cooperation with CEPP, with FPPC, and with IPC. The Council should use such communication and cooperation to inform itself about other issues that converge with the College needs for IT, and then develop policy recommendations that help these committees place those needs in curricular and budgetary perspectives.

4. The Council should increase its responsibility by taking into its deliberations, '...all aspects of information resources...' associated with the Library and with CITS, including media services, classroom support, reference support, and their associated budgets. By broadening the base of deliberations and by assuring meaningful discussion of budget development, the Council will attract a broader range of faculty and thereby build a greater sense of confidence among the faculty who serve on IRC. At the same time, IRC should develop subgroups that can deal with more specialized technical issues and their implications for people, thus allowing the Council to recommend policy on an even more informed basis.

5. The working relationships between the Center for Information Technology and Scribner Library are effective and are evolving toward greater cooperation. The increased dependence upon information technology in Scribner and in CITS invites the College to think further about how these information centers can collaborate even more in their support of teaching, learning, and scholarship.

6. In our deployment of information technology, we should aim to maximize benefits for the entire College, and work to reduce counter-productive territorial strategies for the distribution of IT.

7. The College should avoid pleading a special case for the role of information technology in teaching, learning, or in scholarship. IT should assume no special status in matters of promotion and tenure, and we should avoid circumstances that invite any suspicion of such preferences. On the other hand, the College should assess the educational effectiveness of information technology as part of a College-wide effort to evaluate the merits of all pedagogy on campus.

8. Skidmore must deal with a growing crisis in the support of IT. Steady addition and revision of technology coupled with market place forces make it difficult to maintain and retain a well-trained staff that can manage the information technology which the College relies upon. This condition will require Skidmore to be inventive in matters of staffing (e.g. organizational structure that encourages initiative and commitment to the College), to consider models of distributed support for IT (e.g., departmental IT specialists), and to pay more competitive wages to qualified IT staff in order to reduce the likelihood of their departure for more lucrative employment elsewhere.

9. CITS needs to employ students more effectively as part of the solution for the IT support crisis. The College should declare the work of CITS an essential service and allow CITS to compete effectively with other work centers for the employment of students on campus.

10. The College needs to know with greater accuracy the inventory of information technology equipment on campus. Furthermore, it needs a systematic, timely means of gathering such information, one that is cost-effective, and that helps the College protect itself against theft, neglect, hoarding of equipment and other waste of a vitally important infrastructure.

-RPDS

3/31/98 


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