Urbana-Champaign Senate approves IT Plan

By MaryCate Most

In the American education sector, 4.7 percent of budget is dedicated to Information Technology, according to the Gartner Survey, whereas only 3.8 percent of the University’s budget is dedicated to IT support, said Chief Information Officer Paul Hixson at Monday’s Urbana-Champaign Senate meeting. Senators at the meeting endorsed a strategic plan to support an increase in IT spending on areas of cyber security and increased wireless access.

“If we don’t act, I am actually somewhat concerned that we will lose the Illinois edge that we need to achieve academic excellence,” Hixson said.

Hixson said the University has already suffered from a lack of cyber security and that these attacks could be damaging to the institution’s credibility. Last year, the University fell victim to a spear phishing attack — a cyber attack in which the perpetrator commits e-mail fraud against an organization.

“During that two week period there were 2.2 million malignant messages targeted at this campus,” Hixson said. “It only took 50 people on campus falling for the bait, and then the whole campus was put on blacklist for two weeks.”

The strategic plan has passed through the IT committee, Senate Executive Committee, and the Urbana-Champaign Senate very quickly, due most likely to the fact that IT impacts such a large amount of people on campus, said John Hart, chair of the senate’s IT committee.

“We all feel the pain of not being able to connect wirelessly,” Hart said. “Plus in these committees, the number of people that work on this plan is huge. This is coming from the faculty and the students, so there has been a lot of approval from the faculty and students for the plan.”

At the meeting, senators made a small amendment to the plan. The amended resolution emphasizes that the increased support for IT applies not only to online classrooms, but also to face-to-face classrooms. Kathy Oberdeck suggested the amendment, but Mary Mallory read the proposed amendment in her stead at the meeting.

“She felt throughout the plan itself that all types of learning environments were emphasized, but when it came to the resolution itself, online education seemed to be given a priority,” Mallory said.

The amended plan, which aims to “enhance the University of Illinois mission” in both campus classrooms and online environments, was passed unanimously by the full senate.

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]