An annual report identifies a need for more collaboration across campus leadership as universities strive to provide secure IT services to students in residential areas.
In a survey of 509 IT, business and housing officers conducted by Forward Analytics, one out of every five respondents does not meet with their counterparts in the other two leadership categories, according to the 2014 State of ResNet Report commissioned by the Association for Information Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Association of College and University Housing Officers - International.
It's disappointing and unfortunate to see that 20 percent of campus leaders in these three areas are not talking, said Dee Childs, chair of the ACUTA Environmental Scanning Committee and associate provost and Chief Information Officer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. This lack of communication results in leadership silos, which means that these three groups have different priorities and are not on the same page.
"Sometimes in our very busy schedules, we forget to communicate with our partners across campus," Childs said.
For example, 44 percent of 123 housing officers expressed concern about how they would continue to meet residential network demands. But only 9 percent of their counterparts in IT voiced the same concern.
As more high-profile data breaches happen at campuses including the University of Maryland and Indiana Universities, 55 percent of 152 business officers would like more diagnostic information when breaches happen. But IT leaders may not have known they wanted that information, Childs said.
The solution to this problem is simple: Start communicating.
While communication takes different forms, one way to kickstart conversations is by creating an IT governance structure made up of faculty, staff, students and administrators across the university, Childs said. With this governance structure, leaders across campus can communicate openly and collaborate on decisions, which will help break down communication barriers.
It will also help them address three major challenges of providing residential network services:
- Financial challenges
- Balancing network access with a need for greater security
- Trying to understand the academic requirements of students, which is changing from a residential point of view.
No longer are students just hanging out in their dorms and then walking over to classes in other buildings. Now they're also taking blended or online classes from their dorms. And that's why leaders throughout the campus need to make decisions and set priorities for many things, including the strength of the residential network, how it will be managed and how it will be paid for.
"Governance is a really big part of that," Childs said, "having a strategic plan that is the outcome of good governance so that everyone is singing from the same sheet of music as we progress forward."