Editorial: Why Skidmore's Website and Wi-Fi Suffer

Within the next month, Skidmore will have finally completed its extensive, multi-year-long process of updating its website. By the Editorial Board

Students commonly complain about Skidmore’s technology, especially the design and navigational usability of Skidmore’s website, and the frequent connectivity problems with Skidmore’s wireless Internet. The editorial staff found that Skidmore’s poor allocation of resources towards improving the school’s technology is responsible for these poor services.

Skidmore’s website has been pretty disjointed over the past couple of years because the site has been in a transitional period. The Communications department has been working on moving Skidmore’s web pages from their old content management system (CMS) to their current design and system. The webpages you may have encountered that contain dated information and that look aesthetically different from most other pages were likely the CMS pages that had not yet been transferred.

The process of transferring the CMS pages began in July 2012, and will only just be wrapping up around the end of this month. It has been such a long process because it is very tedious work, moving each page piece-by-piece and image-by-image, and the Communications department has only one person singlehandedly moving all of the webpages. The number of old pages in CMS format was 46,889, and the number of current, newer web pages is significantly larger, so transferring the pages is no small endeavor. The tedium of the job is compounded by Communications’ need to work individually with each department to determine what content needs to be kept, what should be done away with, and how new pages should be organized.

This is a massive responsibility to put in the hands of just one person. That was the only option though, since Skidmore’s Communications team is just four individuals, each of who is always incredibly busy. Somehow, Skidmore cannot afford to hire an additional person to help work on updating the website, thus prolonging the process for years. This is a disservice to the students, and a case of mistaken priorities on behalf of the administration. No professional organization should need three years to implement a new website. Having an outdated, ineffective, and unstandardized website does not serve current students’ needs, and it discourages prospective students. A college’s website is one of the first places prospective candidates visit--it is their primary source for information about the school. Therefore, a seamless website is integral to Skidmore’s success and is beneficial to the entire institution.

Students also commonly belabor Skidmore’s egregious Wi-Fi, and wonder why it is so ineffective. The wireless is often very slow (or down altogether) because ResHallWifi is currently based on an old standard of wireless connection called IEEE 802.11g. This connection is what the wiring in the residential buildings was designed to handle, so in order to update to IEEE 802.11ac, the newest standard of wireless connection, the buildings must all be completely rewired. This is a very timely and costly project. Information Technology rewired Weicking Hall last summer, will be rewiring Howe-Rounds this summer, and will be working on other buildings over the next few years. This could be done quickly if enough capital was made available to do so. In a recent meeting with the Skidmore News, President Glotzbach emphasized that the school has money available every year for infrastructure improvements; improving the campus wireless should be a priority.

At the pace Skidmore is going, it will be several years until all res-halls have standardized, updated wireless access. And by the time all the dorms are updated, the new wiring will likely already be outdated, since technology shifts so quickly. Because access to the Internet is crucial to any student’s academic success at Skidmore, it would be in the best interest of the students for Skidmore to direct a little more time and money towards a speedier rewiring process, so that it does not drag on the way the website update did.

It’s easy for students to mindlessly complain about website issues and slow wireless connection, and demand that Skidmore just ‘fix the problem’. The Editorial Board approached this topic assuming that Skidmore staff members were merely being lazy about dealing with these seemingly simple technological issues. But, it’s important that we all understand and recognize how much time and effort goes into these large projects. When frustrated, we should not always blame Information Technology or Communications, since they are doing the best they can with the resources they have been allotted. Skidmore’s administration should expend more resources on projects like rewiring the residential buildings, or expanding the Communications department’s pretty small team. This would certainly minimize the time it takes for Skidmore to update these projects, so that the school is not always one step behind the current technology.

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