Duke ITAC - January 13, 2000 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - January 13, 2000 Minutes


January 13, 2000

Attending: Pakis Bessias, Kevin Cheung, Dick Danner, David Ferriero, Alan Halachmi, Peter Harrell (for Patrick Halpin), Donna Hewitt, David Jamieson-Drake, Ken Knoerr, Roger Loyd, Melissa Mills, Caroline Nisbet, John Oates, George Oberlander, Mike Pickett, Diane Reynolds (for Nevin Fouts), Rafael Rodriguez, Alfred Trazzo (for Paul Harrod), Robert Wolpert; Billy Herndon (guest), Rob Carter (guest).

Call to Order: 4:05 pm, by Mike Pickett (in place of Robert Wolpert, who was delayed).

Review of Minutes and Announcements:

  2. The agenda item on Academic Council Update Planning will be dropped back to the next ITAC meeting.
  3. Representatives of Blackboard, Inc. will be on campus on Thursday, January 20, to demonstrate new versions of CourseInfo and discuss Duke user experiences with the software.
  4. The OIT annual report for 1998-99 has been distributed to ITAC members attending the meeting.
  5. Duke's contract for long distance telephone service has expired and is currently on extension, while 13 responses to an RFP were being evaluated. Long distance rates should be lower under a new contract. OIT is also looking at establishing relationships with cell phone vendors.

Mass E-Mail and Survey Guidelines

    2. It would be possible to institute a "filtering" authority between the Registrar's Office and the Systems Administration group for the purpose of regulating the number and types of e-mail sent in bulk.
    3. The requester of the bulk e-mail would never actually possess the list of e-mail addresses.
    4. The Registrar's Office could maintain compliance with FERPA.
  2. David Jamieson-Drake distributed draft survey guidelines on behalf of the Institutional Research Coordinating Committee, and requested input from ITAC (and other interested parties) before the guidelines are finalized and taken to the Dean's Council. David noted the frequency with which requests to survey the entire Duke community are received, pointing out that under FERPA guidelines, student information cannot be released other than for educational purposes, and that any lists given out must be destroyed and cannot be reused for other purposes. David Ferriero pointed out that the Publications Office gives out campus mail addresses upon requests.

    Rob Carter noted that it is possible to send e-mail to everyone on campus without permission, provided that the sender has access to all addresses, a capable machine, and knowledge of how to do it. ACPUB, however, is now set to refuse all messages aimed at over 500 names. Requests to OIT for batch e-mailings are routed to the Registrar's Office, then (if approved) are sent back to OIT for administration, ensuring that recipients of batch mailings see only their own names and that distribution is spread over time so that the system is not overloaded. Melissa Mills commented on a fall semester problem with a CourseInfo mailing, which included the names of all members of the freshman class.

    During the discussion of bulk email, the representatives from the Duke Student Government mentioned that they had been working with this issue for quite some time. The suggestion from the DSG representatives was to setup a well-defined process whereby addresses requested from the Registrar for the purpose of bulk email, would be transmitted directly to the Systems Administration group along with the text to be sent. In this manner, it would be possible for bulk e-mail to address the following problems:

    David Jamieson-Drake interjected that it is not a violation of FERPA to use student information within the institution to support educational services to students. This extends to survey research conducted specifically to improve programs and services for students. Finally, FERPA allows student information to be used in support of general educational research, provided the research also satisfies Human Subjects regulations. David also noted that Duke seems to be stricter than most schools in enforcing HS regulations.

    Even so, most agreed that it was generally not the case that student e-mail addresses were being used for research. The DSG representatives noted e-mail sent by the Alumni and Development Office for their 'Phone-a-thon' and repeated e-mail from Campus Council.

    Mike asked that comments on the matter be sent to Tom Black.

Student Clusters Update

  2. Maintenance

    Billy Herndon discussed concerns that too many cluster machines are reported to be disabled, noting that OIT was in the process of reviewing its cluster support structure, with Rob Carter's, Ginny Cake's, and Pat Driver's groups all involved. He asked that any ITAC ideas be sent to Rob or Pat.

    Rob explained that part of the problem is due to Solaris workstation x-servers crashing, perhaps because of a conflict between installed patches. The crashes appear to be independent of usage, but a newly installed script to restart the x-servers after they crash seems to be providing an interim solution. He noted that there have also been problems with loose cables in the UNIX clusters.

  3. Usage

    Rob presented data on cluster usage, which can be found at http://www.oit.duke.edu/~rob/cluster-usage/ . The page (still partially under construction at the time of the meeting) is similar in form to last year's, showing both console usage and application usage for residential and non-residential clusters, and for different parts of the campus.

    Though he has not finished analyzing the data, Rob's initial conclusions are that:

    • PC use in the clusters is the same as last year or slightly up
    • Mac use is the same or slightly down
    • UNIX use in the clusters is down, but remote use of UNIX machines is up.
    • The UNIX machines seem to be used most heavily for hardcore scientific work
    • the PCs and Macs primarily for word processing and e-mail.
    • There still appear to be a couple of locations were the numbers of machines could be increased, and perhaps some where numbers could be reduced.

The meeting adjourned at 5:30