It is tempting to think of a universitySyracuse University includedas an ivy-covered, memory-rich, venerable institution that changes very little, if at all. After all, in a world bombarded with the demands of high-speed changes every day, imagining a place that has remained pretty much the same as when we left it is comforting.|
Of course you know that's not really true. Universities, like all social institutions, must evolve or fade away. The most compelling change under way right now at Syracuse isn't as immediately obvious to visitors as a major construction project would be. It's a total redesign of the University's information technology infrastructure. In essence, it's a shift from a mainframe to a distributed information network, though that simple description masks an incredibly complex situation. The new system will speed up certain key processes on campus such as registration and library research, and provide the foundation for new services for students.
Syracuse has approached this massive project with great care. Training staff members has occupied as much time, if not more, than selecting and installing the hardware and software. The investment in time and patience, we are convinced, will pay big dividends in the future. We've chosen this route because we believe information technology can never be an end in itself, impressive though it may be. We've started from the premise of our visionto be the nation's leading student-centered research university. So we've looked at what we need to do to accomplish that and have chosen systems to meet that need, rather than selecting a system and then forcing our needs to fit it.
We've also chosen to support our efforts with significant allocations of funds. Our information technology infrastructure requires more than $25 million a year for acquisitions and maintenance. In addition, we have allocated $12 million a year to solving Y2K issues and another $14 million to wiring all our residence halls. The latter is critical in order to accommodate the students who bring their own computers to campus. At present, more than half of them do.
I am proud of the way this change is evolving at Syracuse. I know it's because we have one of the finest faculties and staffs in all of higher education. These people care very much that the processes of teaching and learning are carried out smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. So the next time you visit campus, you won't necessarily know a revolution is under way. But you will definitely notice the improvements we will make as a result.
Kenneth A. Shaw
Chancellor and President