BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published November 16, 2010
Campus is about to get an upgrade. Early this fall, the University’s IT Steering Committee announced it would overhaul the campus communication system. Last week, the LSA Student Government passed a resolution to endorse Google over Microsoft for the University’s new Information Technology collaborative service. The resolution was passed after a thoughtful and informed discussion among student representatives who attended presentations given by both bidders. The University's process to choose a collaborate partner should result in a technology service that meets the needs of students by providing them with the best available educational tools.
Since September, the IT Steering Committee has been planning a new collaborative technology program. It decided it was going to revamp campus’s communication system to improve the system’s cohesion and address problems in calendaring and e-mail services. After a survey of the campus community by the IT Steering Committee, the choices for the company to execute this overhaul were narrowed down to Microsoft and Google. On Nov. 10, LSA-SG passed a resolution endorsing Google as the University’s new collaborative technology partner. Eleven members voted for the resolution. Seven members abstained. In an interview last week with the Daily, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said a decision on which company will be chosen is likely to be made before the end of 2010.
The best news is that no matter who loses, students will win. A redesign and streamlining of the system, regardless of whether it’s done by Google or Microsoft, will facilitate collaboration and studying for students. Microsoft’s Windows Life@EDU service combines social networking, e-mail and university resources into one web application. This could help students be more productive by simultaneously granting access to many different study resources. On the other hand, Google offers Google Product Suite, a program similar to Google Documents that may make working in groups less of a burden by allowing students to share information securely.
It’s encouraging that the IT Steering Committee took the opinions of students and faculty members into consideration when narrowing down the bidders for its new partner. Often, University decisions are made without consulting students and faculty, which makes the University seem aloof and disconnected. The Steering Committee’s actions give the campus community input on a choosing a services provider that everyone will have to use.
LSA-SG’s contribution to the system change had a thoughtful decision-making process behind its endorsement. Student representatives took multiple points of view into account and considered the pros and cons of both Microsoft and Google with one goal in mind: helping students. This reflects a investment in representing students’ needs to the University administration, which should be the function of a student government. LSA-SG has set an example for other student governments that will hopefully lead to progress in efforts like the Open Housing Initiative and more productive interactions with the Ann Arbor City Council.
Better information technology collaboration services will lead to better learning for students and easier teaching and research cooperation for professors. The steering committee has facilitated an open decision-making process and should continue to be receptive to the campus community’s input until the final decision is made.