The College’s network system went offline on Oct. 22. It remained down for nearly three hours before being restored in the late afternoon, to many students’ relief. Two days later, the network went down twice more.
“It really did seem as though it fell out of the blue sky on Friday afternoon,” Dan Siff, Director of Enterprise Services and Information Security Officer, told The Colby Echo. “We haven’t found something that would have caused it. It’s also strange to have something happen on a Sunday. That tends to be a quieter day because you don’t have a lot of faculty [on campus] … The hope was that this was a one time thing and that we would just analyze it after the fact.”
Across campus, laundry machines and Colby card readers stopped working. Unable to swipe students in, dining hall employees had to record students’ ID numbers as they entered the dining halls.
“A total network down event is about as bad as it gets,” Siff said. “The fact that it’s been contained to a little under five hours total is a small silver lining to the effect that we’ve been able to operate during the daytime hours … A down event during the day, we’ve seen them in the past [and] they’re not good. You have to cancel classes [and] you can’t do stuff, as you can imagine. This is an active fight that we’re in right now.”
Information Technology Services (ITS) sent out a notice after the network went down for a second and third time to notify the campus community of the events. By then, an online petition was started, demanding that students receive extensions on assignments due to the lack of internet connection on campus.
“We also sent the same [email] to professors so that they knew what had happened and what time periods were affected,” Jason Parkhill, Interim Chief Information Officer, said. “I think the Provost’s Office wanted them to know so that they could make judgments should they need to grant extensions [to] their students. We made sure that we did that because it was on a Sunday [and] faculty wouldn’t necessarily know what had happened.”
ITS has not been able to solve the problem, but explained in their message that they believe that there are “malfunctioning links in the core network environment.”
The College’s network is dispersed across campus in four main locations, which house a total of ten different individual pieces of equipment. They have been able to reproduce the network issue during the early hours of the morning and have successfully restored the network afterwards.
The issues with campus internet, laundry, and dining come at a time when there is heightened conversation on campus about seemingly inadequate facilities and services for students. The recent One Colby protest mentioned technology as one of the core areas where they would like to see the College improve.
“We need strong WiFi,” their current website reads, “as the current Colby WiFi (both Access and Guest) can’t handle the increasing population of the campus.” While there are more students and more internet-ready devices on campus this year, Siff explained that the College’s network system can handle its current load.
“We watch this network pretty carefully, both from an operational standpoint and a security standpoint, and we wouldn’t let anything get to the point where it was either insufficient, having reliability issues, or certainly dealing with oversubscription, because that’s something that’s pretty easy to see,” he said.
“We are not oversubscribed. We are not hitting the ceiling. There is plenty of room bandwidth-wise on campus,” he continued. “Wireless introduces [complicating] variables because your distance from the access point, location in the room, [and] the type of device that you’re using [are] going to change your experience depending on what you’re doing. That [can] start to introduce a variable that can make a network look like it’s very slow when in fact it is not.”
Regardless of the accuracy of their technological critiques, One Colby remains a supported movement on campus. Recently, a new website, onewithcolby.com, was advertised throughout campus with posters saying “We stand with you.” The website features a brief message in support of free speech and against racism and threatening behavior that protesters say they have faced on campus.
Listed at the bottom of the website are academic departments signing onto the statement: American Studies, Art, Cinema Studies, Education, English, Latin American Studies, Philosophy, Spanish, and the Writing Program. The Colby Echo reached out to several department chairs for comment.
Professor Adam Howard, Chair of the Education Department, explained that professors support their students in many ways.
“Making this public statement of support is one of the ways that we in the education program are expressing our support for students during a time when many feel overwhelmed, stressed, and a whole range of emotions by what happened recently,” he said. “We express this public support to show that we are pedagogically open to continue supporting students in ways that meet their needs.”
ITS also expressed their commitment to meeting the College’s needs.
“Our objective is to be as invisible as we can when it comes to the infrastructure,” Spiff said. “We never like something like this coming up that’s gonna impact anything that anyone needs to do on campus, whatever [that might be].”
He added that students complaining about technological issues are a big help to ITS, allowing them to seek out and address problems.
“In some ways we’re very dependent on everyone to be that canary, and tell us when something happens,” Spiff said.
“I wish we could be in an [online] chat room with the whole campus but we can’t do that, so it’s the support desk. We’re really dependent on folks to speak up. Tell us what’s happening if you can’t do something. If something’s slower than you’d expect, let us know. We can investigate it.”
~ Milo Lani-Caputo `23