At last night’s LSA Student Government meeting, members voted to pass a resolution, endorsing Google as the future of Information Technology collaborative services at the University.
The resolution, which passed with 11 votes in favor, none against, and seven abstaining, will allow LSA-SG to send a letter to the University’s IT Steering Committee, which is responsible for the the ultimate decision in adopting either technology vendor.
In an effort to streamline the University’s IT services, the IT Steering Committee launched a plan in September to overhaul the campus communication system. As part of the initiative, the steering committee sent a survey to the campus community asking them to gauge how best to address issues with campus computing, like a lack of cohesiveness in terms of e-mail and calendaring systems.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the survey eventually led to a technical showdown between the top two vendors — Google and Microsoft — to pick which one would be implemented at the University.
“The survey that was offered to students, faculty and staff was meant to really help better understand what tools people use and how they use them, and then that was narrowed down to (Google and Microsoft), who were invited to campus and made presentations,” Fitzgerald said.
Beginning in late September, Google and Microsoft held presentations at the University to introduce the collaborative tools that they said could improve the quality of IT services for the campus, giving students, faculty and staff the opportunity to better understand the future of IT services.
Fitzgerald said he’s not sure exactly when the University would officially announce the new IT collaborative system, but he speculates that the decision will come before the end of the calendar year.
Steven Benson, LSA-SG President, said his organization first looked into the University’s adoption of new collaborative tools when Google and Microsoft held their presentations on campus in late September and the beginning of October.
“Right when Microsoft and Google were coming to campus was when we started to take a personal interest in this,” Benson said. “A lot of our members of government were really personally interested in seeing the direction of (the University) in terms of e-mail systems, calendars and what system they would use.”
Following the presentations, LSA senior Jeff Wojcik, academic relations officer of LSA-SG, stressed the potential of the collaborative tools to improve both the academic and extracurricular lives of students.
Initially, Wojcik, who sponsored the resolution, said he sent an e-mail to all of the members of the student government to receive feedback on whether they preferred Google or Microsoft for the new University system.
“I encouraged people … to go to the presentations for both Microsoft and Google to learn about the products, so that they could be better educated when they weighed in about which (collaboration tools suite) they wanted to push for,” he said.
By urging other members of LSA-SG to attend the presentation, the government was able to gather an array of views regarding differences in the presentations of the two companies, Wojcik said.
Wojcik explained that before determining whether LSA-SG was going to formally endorse one product suite or the other, the group collectively decided that it was necessary to research the two options and allow a variety of opinions within the government to be expressed.
Despite the widespread use of Google products within the LSA-SG community, some members voiced concerns regarding the privacy policies of Google.
“There were concerns brought up in our most recent meeting about Google’s ability to preserve the privacy and security of students and really faculty and staff data at the University,” Wojcik said.
In response to the apprehension about the security of the campus community, members of the student government extensively researched the security policies of Google and talked with University students about their feelings of security when using Google products.
The United States government under the Federal Information Security Management Act has certified the security policies of Google, Wojcik said.
After many members of LSA-SG attended the presentations by Google and Microsoft, Wojcik said the consensus was that more students were in favor of the collaboration tools offered by Google.
“I think both Microsoft and Google’s products are … really useful collaboration tool suites, but … Google was the best choice for students,” Wojcik said.
Benson echoed Wojcik’s sentiments, adding that “there were definitely some members of government, too, that supported Microsoft, so we had a really healthy discussion.”
Wojcik said many student organizations across campus including LSA-SG often use various features offered by Google, like Gmail, Gchat and Google Docs, adding that LSA-SG’s resolution to endorse Google has been in the works for the past few weeks following the presentations of the companies.
“We thought it would be a good idea to lobby for what the students were interested in seeing in their collaboration tools,” he said.