Tebben Gill Lopez/ The Mirror

Since August 2013, we have followed with dismay the events surrounding the abrupt decision by the university’s Information Technology Systems service to end the use of the Mentor course management system and replace it with Blackboard. We have heard the ITS argument that Mentor has security problems, but we have seen no credible evidence that Mentor could potentially compromise the security of student records or any other sensitive information. The same point, lack of evidence of potential breach of security, is explicitly made in the report by the faculty Educational Technology Committee following several months of inquiry.

As long-term users of IT tools and processes, we can confidently declare that the Mentor system was a gift of substantive value to the Fairfield faculty. We know from personal experience that Mentor has been a superb tool for course management, outcomes assessment, program assessment and management and, principally, facilitated the flow of information between course management and assessment requirements. Furthermore, Mentor has been a veritable aide in extending classroom time by providing online open lines of communication between teachers and students.

As praiseworthy as Mentor has been, our point in writing this letter is neither to add to its praises already declared and publicized by many faculty across the campus nor to contrast Mentor with the Blackboard course management system. It is, instead, to underscore the inappropriateness of the methods and the timing chosen by ITS to upend the academic enterprise on campus on very short notice last August, and endanger the instructional plans of a large number of faculty for no evident good reason. It was also a mistake on the part of ITS to ignore the means at its disposal, namely the faculty ETC, in order to reach collaboratively the far-reaching decision regarding the Mentor system. Worse yet was the way that ITS, by its actions, belittled the value of Mentor, and, by extension, the work of a valued colleague, Dr. Curt Naser, who has devoted intellectual and technical skills to creating the Mentor system.

Under the circumstances, it would be most appropriate for ITS to revisit its decision of last August, and, in conjunction with the faculty ETC review, assess the current and projected use of course management systems on campus. An act of this kind would be very welcome and in very good taste indeed.

E. Vagos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., Professor, Engineering and Physics, Founding Dean, School of Engineering
Norman Solomon, Ph.D., Professor of Management, Former Dean, Dolan School of Business
Jack W. Beal, Ph.D., Professor, Physics and Engineering, Former Dean, School of Engineering
Orin L. Grossman, Former Academic Vice President, Fairfield University

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