Report: March 28, 2007

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO MISSISSAUGA Erindale College Meeting of the COMPUTING COMMITEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 3.10 p.m. in the Ante-Room, #3129, South Building.

Present: J. Lim (in the Chair), R. deSouza, C. Capewell, C. Mejia, J. Hu, A. Akers, S. Senese, A. Vyas, G. Moraglia, S. Al-Abdul-Wahid, D. O'Day, J. Sills
In attendance: D. Mesch, B. McFadden, M. Paul

1. The Minutes of the previous meeting (February 28, 2007) were approved (A. Vyas/C. Capewell)

2. New Business

i) Update on UTORid/UTORmail Migration for Staff/Faculty

Mr. Lim, Chair and Chief Information Officer, reported that a Town Hall meeting to discuss the UTORid/UTORmail migration had been held on March 26, 2007. Two major issues were raised at that meeting. There was concern about the file/attachment size limitations as well as inbox/folder quota for UTORmail. Mr. Lim assured members that he would be working closely with Computing and Networking Services (CNS) and would be investigating the implementation of a tiered system whereby those who required larger quota could be accommodated as well as how we could leverage our current storage quota with UTORmail.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

A member enquired whether UTM access facilities could be maintained until these issues were resolved. Mr. Lim responded that once the migration was accomplished, all e-mail would be forwarded to UTORmail. He also noted that the process would likely take about one month, and suggested that those requiring a larger quota could migrate last. A member asked why this campus could not have its own separate e-mail service. Mr. Lim emphasized that the current system was antiquated, inadequate and inefficient. If it was retained, it would require a major upgrade, which would have substantial cost implications. The Chief Administrative Officer stated that it would cost in excess of $800,000 to keep the current system functioning at its current state. He added that the academic budget was the only source of funding for this kind of change. He suggested that the migration proceed in July, and that CNS be consulted in the meantime to ensure that transfer issues and concerns be dealt with as soon as possible. He also observed that the Faculty of Medicine had been on UTORmail for many years, and was optimistic that the majority of issues could be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. A member observed that even though the current e-mail service was problematic (with an estimated down time of one week per year), e-mail was never lost, which was not the case with UTORmail. He was not confident that the issues would be addressed quickly, and suggested that $50,000-$60,000 be invested in the current system for the time being, and that migration proceed only if and when the concerns raised had been addressed. Another member suggested that the Faculty of Medicine and other divisions with large research files should be consulted, and Mr. Lim agreed. Special guest, Marden Paul, the University's Director of Strategic Computing, observed that there were currently 128 e-mail systems University-wide, which was a tremendous drain on resources, and did not make sense. He noted that UTORmail should be bumped up appropriately, and that we should collectively move forward with this. It did not make sense to spend money on patches. Another member disagreed, and wondered why there were so many e-mail systems if UTORmail was indeed working well. The member emphasized that researchers were extremely concerned about the restrictions of UTORmail, and noted that the institutional focus should be on quality and professionalism. He added that he was speaking on behalf of all researchers and graduate students, and explained that individuals' needs varied, and it was clear that UTORmail did not accommodate these diverse needs. Discussion continued and it was agreed that some time should be taken to consult with UTORmail users (including the Faculty of Medicine) to see how they dealt with the kinds of problems discussed above, and that subsequently a special meeting of the Computing Committee should be scheduled to update members.

ii) Update on Campus Meal Plan

Mr. Bill McFadden, Manager, Retail Planning, Development & Operations and Ms. Diane Mesch, T-card Coordinator, were in attendance to update the Committee on the Campus Meal Plan. Ms. Mesch reported that in the late summer of 2005, Business Services spearheaded the Blackboard transaction system onto this campus, the goal of which was to enhance the student experience with the Residence Meal Plan program. The first step was to create a convenient meal plan for staff and faculty. The Residence meals were slated for the following summer. A small pilot group of staff and students were put in place to test the campus value and campus value plus meal plans in the summer of 2006. As a result, some important issues were resolved. By the summer of 2006, the Director of Business Services, Ms. Capewell, organized a team comprised of members of Business Services and Computing Services to implement a residence meal plan by September 2007. Mr. McFadden was hired to oversee this process. Ms. Mesch proceeded to describe how the meal plans would be attached to the T-cards and how this system would work, using Envision software. She noted that the hardware was equipped with an MSR reader which was capable of performing thousands of off-line transactions if the network became offline. Two card management centres would be located near the busier food outlets in the South Building Meeting Place and outside of the North Building Cafeteria. She was working with Jeremy Graham, Project Manager, LMS on the Community Module System, the purpose of which was to provide credit card authorization to allow students and guests (parents, etc.) to add value/money to students' accounts via a web interface. This also allows users to view all transactions, to fund accounts, and to disable their card if it was stolen.

Mr. McFadden circulated brochures outlining the various campus value plans for non-resident students, faculty and staff and the Resident Student Meal Plans. He observed that these plans would provide savings (5% on all campus food purchases), convenience, safety (missing or lost cards could be cancelled) and flexibility. They would also be able to be used at Tim Horton's, Mr. Sub, Pizza Pizza, On the Go, Spigel Hall, North Building Cafeteria outlets, Colman Dining Commons, Starbucks in the new library, the Hot Dog Kiosk, Circuit Break Café and Blind Duck Pub. He noted that UTM meal plans were actually 2 plans in 1 consisting of basic food dollars and flex dollars. Basic food dollars would be used for on-campus food purchases, which would be PST and GST exempt when applicable. Flex dollars would be used for convenience and grocery items and for making purchases with select off-campus partners. Resident students were required to select a plan from one of the two following groups as follows: 1) Group A Plan: Full Meal Plans mandatory for all first-year students and for those students residing in Oscar Peterson Hall and 2) Group B Plans:Partial Meal Plans mandatory for all upper year resident students with the exception of graduate students and students with families. He emphasized that the amount of time spent on campus and personal eating habits were important criteria in choosing the appropriate plan.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

A member asked whether the T-card fee would be waived if cards malfunctioned. Ms. Mesch assured members that the cards were made to last for 100,000 swipes, observing that if they were scratched or demagnetized it was the responsibility of the student who was storing the card to replace it at a cost of $12. A member expressed concern that the shuttle bus swipe system slowed things down. The Director of Business Services, Ms Capewell, responded that this system would be faster and more efficient than using cash.

iii) IT Initiatives from the Provost's Office

Mr. Lim introduced Marden Paul, Director of Strategic Computing in the Office of the Vice-President & Provost. Mr. Paul described various initiatives the University was currently undertaking.

It had started its review of its Information Technology (IT) Services organization. This review would look at what tools, today and in the future, were needed by students, faculty and staff to interact, communicate, study, perform research, manage operations and support services. These needs would dictate, the kind of leadership and organizational structure that would best ensure that a high level of services were offered and maintained. The review would allow the University to clarify roles and responsibilities and help make decisions on issues ranging from priority-setting methods, funding, evaluation, standards, and security. The review would also help to define the best way to balance centrally-provided and divisional IT services taking into consideration the tri-campus nature of the University of Toronto. An on-line survey would be created to gather information. Kumar Murty, Chair of the department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, would be representing this campus on the steering committee.

The University was also moving quickly to address security issues, and to put tools in place to protect data. The priority was to ensure that clinical data was protected first.

He also reported that the University was also looking into what communications and collaboration tools were necessary for the University. Document management was another priority and a recommendation to upgrade SAP was currently being reviewed.

Regarding the Blackboard portal and associated Learning System, the next phase would be to attach WEB services to it, and to determine what kinds of services were needed.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In connection with addressing security issues, Mr. deSouza emphasized that very sensitive non-clinical data also existed and that Research Services needed to remind researchers that, when they signed off on their Ethical Review documents, it was their responsibility to keep their own data safe and secure.

The Chair reminded members that a special meeting would be scheduled within one month. He assured members that there would be CNS representation at that meeting to address concerns. The meeting was adjourned at 3.50 p.m. (S. Al-Abdul-Wahid/A Vyas)