McLaughlin takes note of complaints

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By Jonathan Munson

The vice chancellor of administration, a tall, confident man with a strong grip, probably took more notes than he thought he would at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting here. James McLaughlin probably increased his workload as well.
A two-page list of questions was given to the new vice chancellor, only to prompt more questions, many of them requesting that something be fixed.
McLaughlin was asked to look into the information that’s printed on faculty pay stubs, a situation which — after some discussion and the vice chancellor noting that he must find out who to talk to about the situation — he summed up with a cool, “We’re going to make that problem go away.”
Information was inaccessible over the district server on Tuesday; e-mail was down Saturday. History Professor Jonathan Lee said it was down Friday as well. McLaughlin also had trouble with his e-mail.
“Want to know the truth about that,” McLaughlin began, adding that “the nice thing about being new is that the truth is painless.”
He explained that tapes are used to back up data, and the tapes are reused. The tape in question was reused multiple times, McLaughlin said, and data from Nov. 21 was never recorded properly. “Reusing tapes is common for cost,” McLaughlin said, “but at some point, you count how many times you reuse it.”
He asked senate members if they received any notification from the district about the situation, and many responded “no.” McLaughlin wrote that down.
“The first thing that vice chancellors learn is that, if I’m having problems, I know it’s a lot worse for everyone else,” McLaughlin said, “and I don’t like that.”
Business Professor Val Calvert shared concern about district information technology. “I lost an entire course a month ago,” she said. “My students had just taken an exam.”
She also had a problem with the phone system at this college. “Everytime we have registration, the phone system goes out. If somebody leaves a message, they might not reach our inbox until days later.”
Lee said he had received disturbing prank calls on his phone — an anonymous student threatening to quit school and acquire a heroin habit — but without caller ID had no way of telling who was calling.
Lee expressed concern over the Blackboard Vista platform for Web courses. He explained that there’s a trust issue that has caused most faculty members to select their own platforms because e-mail goes down so often, as do district servers.
He explained that, as an online instructor, he wanted to finish some grading Nov. 23 but the system was inaccessible. “What guarantees are there going to be that this won’t happen,” Lee said, speaking of the up-and-coming Blackboard Vista platform. He asked if more people will be hired so that the platform can be accessible 24 hours a day.
“I don’t have any answers about what happened on Friday,” McLaughlin said, “but I do know that by Dec. 10, I will have the answer. Did you try the help desk? Because I did, and it didn’t help. I know the frustration.”
However, the vice chancellor added that Blackboard Vista has its benefits. Hiring more people to work a help desk is an option, but not a necessity. He suggested outsourcing. “Their skillsets probably exceed any of ours,” McLaughlin said. “My suspicion is, as we’ve tried to do everything in-house, we’ve missed what’s been happening in the business world.”
Senators complained students want to pay their tuition as soon as they register for classes but are not able to do so. “I did see one odd thing. I get a report that says one student figured out how to break the code, which means one student paid. I got this yesterday and I was scratching my head,” he said.
The bursar’s office here says students will be able to view their bills and pay them beginning Dec. 3.
Budget questions permeated the meeting. McLaughlin explained that, unless it is for a new college such as Northeast Lakeview College, he is not a fan of forward funding — funding based on the predicted enrollment of a college.
McLaughlin also said he is not a fan of special fees attached to course tuition. “Every campus I’ve worked on, we eliminate the fees,” he said. “These title fees are just nuisances. They hurt us in terms of enrollment.”

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