OIT ranked #40 by Yahoo!; plans summer upgrades

Williams College was ranked fourtieth on Yahoo’s Most Wired Campuses 1999. The relatively high rank reflects the hard work of the Office of Information Technology (OIT).

In response to the rankings, Perry Hanson, director of the OIT, replied, “Some institutions make a big deal out of these rankings. I recently was at a meeting where one such institution kept talking about their ranking. I kept wondering if that’s the best they could say about their institution. I think, hope, we have a lot more to say than just that.

“I think that some of the indices, like 100% saturation of residential hall rooms with internet connections or number of publicly available computers or 24 hour access or STCs [student technology consultants] on duty, do reflect the commitment that Williams has made to computing, especially during the last three years. Any success reflects the commitment of the institution as well as the staff (student and professional).”

Hanson also commented on Yahoo’s mysterious ranking criteria: “The analysis leading to the rankings is at best a mystery and in many cases outright mistakes have been made in determining rankings based upon the data input. The method of ranking is never explained, or perhaps is not explainable.”

Yahoo incorrectly reported that Williams has only 88% of its dorms on a network and 33 computers available 24/7. In fact, 100% of dorms are connected to the network and there are at least 90 computers available to the Williams community at all times.

Despite any flaws or mistakes in Yahoo’s judgement, Williams’s place in the list reflects the ongoing efforts of the OIT to provide consistent service and regular network upgrades.

Hanson said, “The college has made IT [information technology] a priority.” Within the last three years, with overwhelming support from the president of the college and the provost, the OIT has been able to respond effectively to the computing needs and demands of the Williams community.

This summer the OIT will be making selected improvements in dorm wiring and upgrading network hardware across campus. There are also plans to add additional computers in various places around campus, especially the library.

Lehman, Fayerweather, East and Morgan will have new networking wire installed to reduce current problems with connections and reliability.

The OIT annually upgrades servers and network devices. The UNIX timeshare servers, which run networks such as Colrain, and the Novell file servers, such as Achilles, will be upgraded. All dorm hubs and switches will also be upgraded to current industry standards.

A new uninterruptible power supply and generator will be installed at Jesup to prevent hard crashes during power outages.

There is a project to obtain an additional T1 line, one of the gates to the internet, as a response to overwhelming web traffic. Currently the college has two T1 lines, one of which was added only last year.

Also, College Council succeeded with it’s proposal to put additional computers in the Goodrich Student Center. There will be about four or five more computers, more capable then the Colrain dedicated computers currently in the building.

Another four or five public use computers will be added to Kellogg, the environmental science building, and there will be upgrades in the geosciences and chemistry computers labs.

Hanson said that one of his goals is to make public use computers available all over campus, not only in Jesup.

One of the buildings undergoing the most change this summer seems to be the Sawyer Library. The OIT is planning to add Ethernet ports to every carrel in the library in response to the fact that one in four students owns a laptop computer. They are also adding about 20 more desktop computers to the first floor as well as upgrading the current computers.

A laptop computer loaning program was started at Sawyer last year. Students can check out a laptop and use it anywhere within the library. Next year, all of the laptops—at least six—will be new.

There is little indication of how many of these new purchases will be Macs or PCs. Hanson said that the purchase of new computers reflects the kinds of computers that the students and faculty own. For example, if the ratio of Mac or PC owners were one to one, then new purchases would be about one to one.