ISS director receives no blame for e-mail crisis

Lauren Eckert

It was only five months ago that the faculty senate at Washburn University passed a “vote of no confidence” regarding Information Systems and Services director Michael Gunter. The recent e-mail crisis has some wondering if there is any connection between the outage and the faculty concerns from last April.

Faculty concern for Gunter’s practices as ISS director were first brought to attention at the Jan. 18 faculty senate meeting, where faculty complained that Gunter was interfering with faculty research, academic computing, library access, faculty privacy and academic freedom.

The meeting heard some faculty members refer to Gunter’s behavior as “unstable,” arguing that he “could not be trusted” and was pointedly avoiding questions.

Tom Prasch, faculty senate president, said in April that the main factor of faculty discontent stemmed from a “fundamental lack of trust” in Gunter.

Despite the faculty vote, Gunter remains employed at Washburn University as ISS director.

While the lack of confidence in Gunter remains fresh on the minds of faculty, most faculty members are not pointing blame at the director for the recent e-mail outage.

The outage, which first occurred on Aug. 19 and was completely restored on Sept. 10, was the source of a lot of frustration for both faculty and students.

Freshman Renae Langer said, “It was really frustrating because as a freshman, it’s a lot more comfortable communicating with professors through e-mail. Without it, everything seemed to be a lot more chaotic.”

Assistant professor of English Sarah Smarsh was in agreement.

“The e-mail crash obviously slowed or altered my communications with students, faculty and other professional contacts. For the first day or two, though, I had a positive outlook, figuring it would be somewhat refreshing to return to phone calls and face-to-face interactions where e-mail had taken over,” Smarsh said.

“In the end, it wasn’t such a fun experiment. E-mail has sped up the entire world, and being without it is nothing but a disadvantage. For me, correspondences regarding important events were interrupted, and the multi-tasking required to complete my jobs as professor and writer was stymied. The problem wasn’t that I really missed e-mail– it was that the rest of the world had it, and I didn’t.”

Alan Shaver, chemistry professor, was also frustrated by the so-called upgrade.

“The e-mail outage was frustrating because, like many software ‘upgrades’ there is little or no apparent improvement in the performance of the Washburn e-mail system, or any other software upgrades that were installed at the same time,” Shaver said.

“I spent valuable lecture time explaining things that I have been handling better and more clearly by e-mail. The functionality of the new software was surprisingly different, not better, and I had to work through new ways for students to use the message board to post required chemistry articles for me and the class by oral instructions in lecture.”

While the crisis complicated communication for many people, ISS made a point to clarify that no one person was responsible for the outage. In a series of campus announcements posted to the MyWashburn Web site, ISS reported that the outage was strictly a result of the server updates and that the department was working diligently to resolve the issue.

While all the reasons behind the e-mail debacle have yet to be discovered, the Washburn community has been understanding and is not pointing fingers.

“I don’t think the e-mail issue was anyone’s fault, and I thought ISS did a good job of communicating the issue to everyone by the campus announcements,” said Langer. “I’m just glad e-mail is back and seems to be operating smoothly.”