McLaren Hall became engulfed in chaos Monday morning, the first day of registration, when USFconnect went down. Some students decided to register manually with OneStop staff. Senior media studies major Stephanie Chantland was slotted to register at 9 a.m. that morning, but, she said, “The system crashed so I wasn’t able to register until 12, and that’s only because I heard [through Twitter] that a few people were registering for people in McLaren. Of course, by the time I got there and waited in line, the one class I really needed was filled.” She said she would have preferred if the registration dates had been rescheduled giving ITS time to repair the system. “I think it’s just really unfair for those who had priority who ended up not getting classes they wanted or needed.” In a USFConnect announcement, Vice President of ITS Steve Gallagher updated the community: “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and anxiety caused by this registration day outage. We will be closely monitoring the situation during the remaining days of registration. We will also work with our technology partners to design and implement defenses against such outages in future terms.”
In the age of e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, a complex password is highly needed for everything so as to prevent identity theft. This is why at the start of the spring semester, the department of Information and Technology Services (ITS) required that all students alter their current passwords on their USFconnect accounts. Administrators at ITS informed students that their new passwords would need to be longer and contain at least one digit.
According to ITS’ new password policy, all students should refresh their password at least once per year to “reduce the impact of disclosure due to undetected theft of passwords or the sharing of passwords.” Students who attempt to change their passwords with an identical password will not be allowed.
For some students, the new policy seems a bit of a nuisance. But for others, like senior media studies student Kate Darden, it is a non-issue. “It’s no problem,” she said, “I forgot that I even had to change it.” While she still finds herself typing in her old password from time to time, she was not bothered by the effect of the new policy.
Others, like Arianna Chavez, have already taken steps to safeguard their account. Having already fashioned her password to the new standards of the ITS policy, the sophomore only had to make slight alterations to her password.
As of Jan. 13, 2011, those who have failed to reset their password within the last six months will receive a notification when they attempt to login to USFconnect indicating they have an expired password.
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta
News Editor: Ericka Montes
For most college students, class registration is one of the most stressful times of the semester. Students usually start looking at classes weeks before their actual registration date and time. Dealing with the competition of other students vying for the best time and day slots to fit their schedules, signing up for classes can be a pretty vicious task.
When the first appointment for registration came around on November 8th at 9 a.m., some students were greeted with a very unfortunate, temporary problem.
Though the USF site is normally accessible for all students during any time of day, students who were scheduled to register for classes on the morning of November 8th had trouble either accessing the site due to a busy server, logging on to their account, or confirming the course registration numbers for their classes.
Angela Yi, the assistant Registrar at the Office of the Registrar, directs the problem to two separate issues. While ITS dealt with the problems surrounding the failed server, the Registrar office worked to restore Banner. Banner is the system used to organize the registration portal. It was first implemented in 2008, but problems of this nature had never occurred in the past.
Yi said that the problem was recognized before 9 a.m., and ITS and the Registrar office worked to fix the issue. “Around 8:50 a.m., all of us were having trouble logging onto the system through USFConnect,” she says. Though the entire issue lasted about an hour, many students experienced the repercussions of the technical mishap.
Kelsy Natividad, a sophomore graphic design major, is one of the students who experienced problems on the opening day of registration. As a University scholar, Natividad has first priority in registering for classes. As soon as she logged onto the site at 9 a.m. on November 8th, the site’s server was too busy to allow Natividad to sign up for classes.
“I was sitting at my seat for half an hour, clicking refresh over and over because I wanted to get it done.” Although Natividad was able to access the site when she signed on a few hours later, she found her privileges useless. “It was frustrating. I thought, ‘What’s the point of having priority if I’m not going to able to register on time?’” Although the server was fixed, Natividad claims the site was running slower than normal. “I actually completed my registration on the 11th, but I ended up getting every class I wanted.”
While ITS and the Registrar’s office worked to fix the technical problems, Yi reports that the Registrar office did all they could to mend the problem in the meantime. “We contacted all the Deans’ offices and key faculty members, and told them we were having issues with the registration portal.” Because the Arts and Sciences School has the most students, the Office of the Registrar had workers stationed at the Arts and Sciences Dean’s office to alleviate the registration problems. Yi affirms that both the ITS and Registrar office had “all hands on deck” to make sure the server, USFConnect site, and the registration portal were up and running for all students.
Other students reported having problems with the site during that morning. Brittany Dorn, a sophomore teaching and history major, accessed the USF site at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8, but could not log on because there was a server error. Around 9:40, she was able to sign on. Although all her classes should have been available, she could not sign up for the classes for her teaching major. “I felt frustrated. That morning, I wasn’t finished registering but I had to go to class and I couldn’t bring my laptop to use in class.” Regardless of the struggles Dorn had with enlisting, she was not too upset with the technical issues. “I knew they’d fix it, and I knew everyone else was having the same problems as me.” Dorn was able to complete registration around 10 a.m..
A senior psychology major, Carly Holmann was also scheduled to register on Nov. 8 at 9 a.m.. According to Holmann, she encountered problems with simply going on the USF page. After refreshing the page a few times, the USF site loaded and she signed into her account, but had problems when putting in the course registration numbers. “I’m a senior, so I found it frustrating since I have a few classes left to take to finish up my major. I’m graduating in May. I was pretty nervous that I wouldn’t get the classes I wanted but I realized it was a campus-wide problem.” An hour after her scheduled registration time, Holmann was able to sign in and register.
The Registrar office received complaints over the phone, through e-mail and in person. Yi states, “We apologize to anyone for the inconveniences [the issue] caused.” Around 9:45 a.m., the Registrar office and ITS had fixed all registration technicalities.
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
News Editor: Ericka Montes
I am long overdue for a new computer. I’m ashamed to admit this but I have watched my computer slowly die on me for months and I’ve done nothing about it. Can you really blame me? Technology can be expensive and the thought of buying a new laptop doesn’t just hurt my heart; it hurts my wallet.
Fortunately, USF’s e-store quite literally fell into my lap the other day. Some of you may already be old friends with the e-store or, like me, you may quizzically raise one eyebrow and think, “how does this help me?”
The e-store is ITS’s virtual mall, where links to individual stores like Apple and Dell can be found. The difference between going to Apple through the e-store instead of just going directly to the website all circles around one word: discount.
After perusing the website, I found that I could save over $100 on some laptops. I know that as a college student I’m supposed to fall into the stereotype of being a poor, starving student who eats ramen for every meal and I am willing accept my current role in society. So if I can find a discount on anything, I’m stoked. But a hundred bucks? It seems too good to believe.
One of the larger ticket items in the e-store is the “USF Technology Marketplace” where you not only find links to our four premium partners (Lenovo, Dell, Apple, and HP) but other useful stores students are likely to buy from (Toshiba, iTunes, GameStop, ect.). Since I’m buying from these stores anyways, might as well do it through USF for several reasons: we get a discount, security and convenience is already built in, and we can help fundraise some money for USF.
By going to these sites through the e-store, every item you look at has your discount as a student, faculty, or staff member already built in. For the skeptics out there, let me assure you that these discounts are nothing to be scoffed at. The e-store has collectively saved its users over $300,000 over the last two months!
One of the other things I like about the e-store is the fact that my online shopping security is already built into the website. If you are not already signed in, the site will prompt you to sign into connect.usfca.edu before bringing you back to the webpage. This is a great because if you have tried to buy something with a student discount before, many places make you show them some proof that you’re a student, whether that means sending them a copy of your school ID or transcripts. Sometimes that’s such a hassle, I just forget the discount or the product all together. But going through your USF account you bypass the red tape and go straight into shopping heaven.
In additionally, the e-store brings benefits to the school. Some of the stores give back a small portion of sales to USF. As Information and Security Officer and Director Walter Petruska put it, think of it as the college version of box tops without having to eat pounds of cereal. The school saves you money and your purchases help support USF. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Meghan Maher is a junior English major
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Opinion Editor: Laura Waldron
Students received at least one e-mail from the university in the past weeks informing them of changes to USF’s emergency alert system. With luck, many of them also received a text-message from the university yesterday and will receive yet another one tomorrow, with the purpose of testing this new SMS (short messaging service) based system, which allows the Department of Public Safety to send out prompt text-message warnings to students in the event of an emergency.
“We’re looking forward to this,” said Director of Public Safety Dan Lawson of the upcoming changes to the emergency notification process. “It will be the final piece that will give us the most comprehensive system of any university around in notifying the public in the event of an emergency.”
The procedure is simple: as soon a state of emergency has been determined, said ITS project manager Aouie Remigio, Public Safety will send out text messages to all the students whose cell phone numbers are in USF’s Banner database; these messages will be brief, containing only a short warning of the emergency and a link to USF’s emergency web page, which students can go to for more information.
While most USF students have unlimited text messaging plans, others have to pay a small fee for every message, and, Lawson said, might not want to be included in the emergency notification.
“We’ve found that the best way to accomplish this, to reach the most people, is to have an opt-out program,” said Lawson. This means that students whose phone numbers are in the university’s database will be automatically included in the program, but that they can choose to opt out.
Lawson estimated that “probably 80-90 percent of most universities use an opt-in program instead,” a system where people in the community are advised by email that they can sign up for emergency text notification by going to a certain link and registering. “However,” he said, “we found that at best you get maybe 20-30 percent, whereas in an opt-out program you can get much higher percentage numbers.”
There are around 10 or 11 specific emergency situations, Lawson said, that would require the sending of warning text-messages. These include such circumstances as a shooter on campus (in which case the message would tell students the approximate location of the shooter, as well as instruct them to take cover or stay off campus), earthquakes, gas leaks, fires, windstorms, terrorist acts, and explosions.
“We only plan to use this in the event of an emergency, which means hopefully we never have to use it, but we will be testing it two to three times a year, so people should expect to receive a text message from us,” Lawson said.
This new project, a collaboration between Public Safety and ITS, is still underway, and there are a few snags to be worked out and decisions to be made—for example, the service that will provide the texts remains to be chosen.
One concern with this new program, Lawson said, is “traffic congestion. When you put out a mass notification to more than a handful of people, you get into the hundreds or thousands, the information system network can only handle so many at a time.”
Another concern is that people will tend to ignore to the text messages sent by the university. However, “I think they will [read them],” said Remigio.
The testing of this system will shed light on both of these issues. Right now, Remigio said, two possible services are being considered: Jyngle, whose services are free, and Blackboard Connect, which charges for the notifications sent. A test text-message was sent using the Blackboard service on Mar. 31, and a message will be sent using Jyngle on Apr. 2. Along with these messages will come a link to a brief online survey. Hopefully, Lawson said, students will give feedback on when they received the message and whether there was a delay, so as to help the university choose the most effective system.
“We want to find the best system at the least cost,” said Lawson. “Obviously we’d rather choose the free one if it has the same effect, but when we ask people in the survey…we can get an idea of the traffic flow at that time in the system.”
Even with the program’s shortcomings, Remigio said, the emergency SMS system will be a significant improvement on the existent emergency warning procedures. These consist of an outdoor warning siren system, which is a collaborative effort with the city of San Francisco; the “e-mail blast”, which is the sending of a notification email to every Donsmail-user; and a text-message sent to “key players” in the university, such as the president and the Emergency Operations Center, said Lawson.
“I don’t consider the implementation of a text-messaging emergency notification as a standalone service,” said Remigio. “Text-messaging won’t get everyone, but we can cast a wider net with text messaging knowing that it is used in conjunction with the other systems.”