IT department highlights improvements at USG meeting

Written By Alexander Popichak , USG Beat Writer

Students returning to campus this semester should have better internet reception as the Information Technology (IT) department installed wireless hotspots in so-called dead zones.

Dr. Tim Wilson, associate vice president of IT, addressed Point Park’s United Student Government (USG) at its first meeting of the semester. Wilson sought feedback on current IT initiatives and any ideas the legislative body had to offer.

“One of the other changes we’ve made is to PointWeb,” Wilson said Monday in the Lawrence Hall Multipurpose Room. “We did those changes in a closed vacuum, in that we made those changes we felt needed to be made. What we are gonna do now is we would like to convene some focus groups so we can get some feedback.”

Wilson asked senators to identify three or four constituents to serve on a focus group to improve students’ experiences with PointWeb – the university’s internal portal for scheduling classes, making payments and advising.

Wilson said including USG and the student body in the process would be beneficial to all users’ experiences, citing the IT department’s crowdsourcing approach to identifying Wi-Fi “dead zones” on campus.

“That’s proof that this forum works and that things get done,” he said.

Wilson also highlighted the university’s initiative to move classes from the higher floors in the West Penn building to the lower levels. While classes will be moving for the fall semester, Wilson said the technology will result in newer, “smarter” classrooms.

The working technology in those classrooms won’t be discarded though; Wilson said the podiums and projectors will be installed in the smaller classrooms on campus that currently don’t offer any sort of audiovisual equipment.

“We are trying to get every classroom equipped with audiovisual technologies for the instructors, and you to use,” Wilson said. “What we don’t want to do is to be delivering stuff to rooms. While delivering [equipment] to rooms sounds like a good idea, it’s a scheduling nightmare and technology in transit doesn’t always work so well.”

Wilson also fielded questions from senators – including the suggestion from freshman Conservatory of Performing Arts Senator Megan Ortego on changing student passwords.

“When the school requests that your password be changed, there’s no warning,” Ortego said, citing complaints from constituents. “I had my one friend log in to PointWeb over break, and his password needed to be reset but he couldn’t do it online… Could we be forewarned?”

Wilson said he would look into offering some sort of warning system for students to be able to get a better grasp on when passwords need changed. Wilson said the IT department’s primary challenge is cybersecurity, and encouraged students to remain vigilant of how they share and exchange data.

“What troubles me even more [than defending against cyber attacks university-wide] is the social side of cybersecurity,” Wilson said. “It’s people being smart about what they do when they’re online. Folks, we will never, ever, ever ask you for your personal information.”

USG President Bobby Bertha pointed out an uptick in spam emails requesting passwords and account information via email. Wilson suggested that students who are running into this problem should contact the IT Help Desk about improving their spam filter settings on their email accounts.

Other improvements proposed by legislative body members included installing a printer in residential halls such as the Boulevard Apartments, and connecting the black and white printer in the 24-hour Thayer Hall computer lab to the computers.

President Pro-Tempore Hayley Hoffman and Ortego both asked Wilson about students running into trouble connecting devices such as Smart TVs and gaming systems to the Point Park internet. Wilson encouraged students with gaming devices – especially devices rendering video and highly-developed graphics – plug those devices directly into the ethernet ports in their dorm rooms.

“With audiovisual technologies, they are very bandwidth-intensive technologies,” Wilson said. “There’s still nothing better than the wired ports. If you’re on a Wi-Fi signal, think about it for a second, you’re on a network that you’re sharing with everyone around you.”

Another draw on the university Wi-Fi bandwidth is students using their own wireless routers. Wilson explained to the legislative body that individual signals interfere with the university’s wireless access points – slowing everyone down. Wilson and Michael Gieseke, Dean of Student Life, reminded students that wireless routers are prohibited on campus for this reason and could bring disciplinary action against offenders.

The legislative body conducted its first meeting of the semester Monday following a reorganization at the end of the fall semester. While the only resolution voted on was the approval of the minutes executive cabinet members discussed their committees’ plans for the semester.

Newly-appointed treasurer Justin Stocklas announced that the budget allocation meeting for the first half of the spring semester is scheduled for Jan. 19. Clubs have until Jan. 16 to submit funding requests for the first half of the spring semester.

President Bertha spoke about upcoming initiatives including the planning of Pioneer Community Day, USG’s annual day of volunteer service where students, faculty and staff are invited to volunteer time around the city and celebrate afterward, this spring.

Bertha informed the legislative body following the meeting that two senators had resigned, Kristopher Chandler and Samiar Nefzi. Chandler represented the Conservatory of Performing Arts and Nefzi represented the School of Communication.

Bertha encouraged any student interested in joining the legislative body contact USG. There are positions open in all schools, with the School of Communication having the most open spots at five.

USG will not hold a meeting next week, Jan. 13, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. USG’s next meeting will be held Jan. 22 wherein club budgets will be approved.