BY MEREDITH WATHNE
Several MSUM faculty signed a petition last semester to request the re-installation of a Mac Tech Team in the IT department to be lead by Bill Scheffler.
Mass communications professor Jody Mattern spearheaded the initiative last fall, nearly six months after original complaints were lodged with the IT department and faculty association. Nearly 125 signatures are on the petition, which passed unanimously by the faculty senate, that states the issues, along with a request to have “Scheffler or someone with comparable Mac skills and experience” lead a re-instated Mac Teach Team in the IT department.
In the past, Scheffler, who was unreachable for comment at the time of publication, handled most Mac issues because he’s the most knowledgeable. After several discussions by the University Technology Committee, the three full-time desktop/computer lab resources were condensed to one team, said Dan Heckaman, the chief information officer of Information Technology. Heckaman took the committee’s recommendation of cross-training the current staff instead of an alternative plan to hire more desktop staff. The recently formed team provides support to over 3,000 devices on campus.
“Teamwork is the key,” Heckaman said. “Our student workers are great. They work hard and are eager to learn, and it’s our hope that when they graduate with whatever degree they pursued, they also take with them some IT knowledge that can help them in their future.”
Mac operating systems are complex and highly integrated, which makes knowledge consumption difficult, although all IT workers are trained on the software. While these students are educated on an array of devices, adequate Mac assistance is still not available to staff on campus.
“Several times I’ve called for help, and a student comes over and they look at it and go, “You’ve got a Mac, I don’t know, I’ll have to go ask somebody else,” and they just don’t know what to do because they are not actually Mac people,” Mattern said.
Over the course of the last year, several faculty members have addressed their concerns to university executives, citing that teaching abilities are hindered due to unresolved Mac issues.
“I (started the petition) because I had everybody talking to me about it — how unhappy they were — and they didn’t know what to do,” Mattern said. “Some people had already gone and talked to Dan Heckaman and nothing changed. I thought what the heck, nobody wanted to be the first name signed on the petition, so it’s me.”
Some faculty members have written letters to IT voicing their complaints, and Mattern said that a letter-writing campaign was even considered, but they wanted to see how successful the petition was first.
Besides the day-to-day issues, another problem mentioned was the issues Mac users faced at the start of the year. After the installation of the new printers, all those using Macs couldn’t print because they were set up to print with only PCs. All the Macs had to be individually diagnosed and fixed so they could print. Mattern attributed this oversight to the fact that no one involved with planning has Mac knowledge, which is the “core of the problem.”
According to Heckaman, 45 percent of the computers on campus are Macs. There are still Mac specialists on staff, but there is no team specifically for Mac related difficulties. The University Technology Committee as well as staff members from other areas of IT are well aware of the problems and concerns from staff and are working together to develop a resolution.
“Certainly, when we are not hitting the mark, we need to make adjustments,” Heckaman said.
Mattern and the rest of the Mac-using faculty hoped a solution would be proposed at the meet and confer tomorrow, but Heckaman is expected to have answers at the next meet and confer on Feb. 20.
“This was a hot button issue last spring,” Mattern said. “Now it’s a red-hot smoking button.”
The issue I see at MSUM information technology department is the restructuring and management strategy that has been put in place. We have an IT department that hasn’t staffed the department that does desktop, laptop, tablet and other work station set up and maintenance while the number of computer users and labs have increased, and other service areas have seen a staffing increase. (Fundamental flaw in thinking)
The given excuse: restructuring of staff and forming a team. (With student workers fill in a gap). While student workers are a good resource, they need to understand that students are not working full time and are not employed workers, the time and effort and level of professionalism is not at the same level as a professional technician. The department seems to be cutting corners with hiring of cheap student help (yes student help is very cheap) without strengthening the core resources that make the department effective.
The responsibility of management should be to put the right people at the right positions and make their process simpler, so they can do an effective job. It’s also a responsibility of the department to be transparent and listen to the feedback of the faculty and staff which is a component of the larger customer base that they are serving. They seem to have failed in both instances.
Student workers with minimum wage and no training, are not the answer. Listen to the voice of the staff, faculty and students. Plan a strategy around there needs. Staff appropriately.
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