An Honors Instructor's
Diary of University Info Tech Breakdown!
By Carol Segal, Contributor
CLOVIS -- What I did this semester at a university Advanced Research & Training seminar is exactly as follows:
I learn that there is no money left for stipends to support info technology projects,
but that I am entitled to assistance from a student worker. The acting director
of info tech asks me to describe my projects, which I explain in detail. I do
not ask what happened to the outline I submitted; I learned my lesson last year.
This year, in addition to maintaining my home page and several other course sites,
I need to do an extensive revision of the site for the honors creative writing
course for the spring semester. The acting director tells me that I'm "in the
vanguard" and that he will have the student assistant contact me within
a few days.
The student worker arrives unannounced at my office. I am so delighted to meet her that I don't complain. She shows me her own site, where she keeps a personal diary. I try to overlook the fact that I am going to entrust my work to someone whose e-mail address includes the word "glitter." She asks me to describe my projects, which I explain in detail.
We meet again one week later to review the changes she will make on my home page
and on the syllabus page of my film-course site. She asks me to describe my plans
for the honors creative-writing site, which I explain in detail.
One of my faculty colleagues and I go to a two-day conference. We are on the same
panel on technology and demonstrate our sites for enhancing the Brit lit survey
and the English capstone course; we cover site construction, research, newsgroups,
and student projects. The final panelist gives his PowerPoint presentation
on Native American literature. Each new bulleted item is accompanied by
what sounds like a volley of machine guns. When I open my eyes, I am staring at
a list of five ways to find my peaceful center. The three remaining members of
the audience, my colleague, and I stagger from the conference room to the next
scheduled event, a poetry reading, which is, mercifully, not electronically enhanced.
I have agreed to supervise one of the three busloads of students my friends in
the art department are taking to New York City. On the line outside the women's
room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I discover my student worker! She
tells me that she will start on my pages the next day.
The student worker e-mails me to say that she's finished and to let her know what
I think. I send an e-mail, telling her that the pages are wonderful, and then
I list the eight problems on my new home page that need "just a bit of work."
I thank the student worker profusely. She tells me that she has taken care of
I point out that there are still two errors. November 1: I receive an e-mail from
a former student, an honors advisee, saying that she has noticed a few errors
on my new home page, but, she reassures me, "the colors are great." I thank her.
It has now been four days since I have heard from the student worker. I e-mail
The student worker flames me. I do not respond.
The student worker shows up in my office, to "see if everything is all right."
I ask her if she would mind making the last two changes on my home page. I check
the site six hours later. There has been some progress: Now there is only one
error. I decide that I will take over the maintenance of my sites.
My computer, which has been slowing down, will not allow me to open the program
that will enable me to start revising my sites. I call computer services. I call
computer services again. I say that I think I have a RAM problem. The woman
I speak to is a graduate of the college, a biology major recently hired to run
the help desk. She tells me that I must first complete the five-step, disk-drive-maintenance
program. The instructions are on the help-desk Web site. I explain that it might
be difficult to access the directions, because I am having trouble opening anything
besides e-mail. She laughs. My colleague pulls up the instructions on her computer
and prints them out, and I spend an hour completing the five-step maintenance
program. By the time I finish the fifth step, the info-tech office has closed
for the day.
I call computer services. I explain to the woman I spoke to on the 15th that my
disk drive seems to be fine, but that there is still a problem. She tells me that
I will have to submit a work-order form. It takes a long while, but I access the
There is no check-off box for the category I need, although
there are many check-off boxes for requesting someone "to move a computer physically."
I try sending the form without a specific request, but it bounces back.
I search the help-desk site for a simple e-mail link
outside of the request form, but there does not seem to be one. I select an arbitrary
category; then I consider physically moving my computer out the window. My daughter
Libby calls me. While I am telling her to hang up now, because I am waiting for
info tech to call, the red light on my phone begins flashing.
There is a message from info tech, clocked at 3:31 p.m.;
at 3:32 p.m., no one is answering the phone. I leave a message. As I sit in my
office waiting for another phone call, I think about how (1) I have not even begun
to work on the honors Web site for the spring, and (2) all I ever really
wanted to do was write poetry.
10 a.m. An info-tech hardware worker calls me at home, where I am grading the
second of 90 papers. He tells me that he is sitting right in front of my computer,
using my phone to call me! He seems to be delighted beyond all reasonable measure
by this minor technological situation. He even has a preliminary analysis: "Boy,
this is slow."
He assures me that he will check with another hardware
technologist and get back to me. So, he says cheerfully, "Enjoy your day off!"
11 a.m. I have finished grading four papers, leaving only 86 to go. I check my
e-mail; there are three new messages. The first is from another former student,
a fine-arts major with a concentration in creative writing.
Do I know that there's an error on my new home page?
This, I think, is my letter to the world. The second e-mail is a reminder to faculty
members to submit proposals on ways to incorporate technology into their classes.
The third e-mail is from the help-desk supervisor,
assuring me that even though the hard techies are very busy, they'll get back
to me next week, hopefully before Thanksgiving.
I do not respond. I have spent more than 40 hours attempting
to edit a misplaced comma.
Ah cyberspace! Ah humanity! I'm shutting down now.
Letter to the Editor
©2001 Clovis Free Press. All rights reserved.