Editorial: Rowan’s internet issues are embarrassing

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Rowan’s internet services have faced issues for a while, and after problems reared their heads just in time for registration this week, it’s getting to the point of being ridiculous.

On Tuesday, the banner registration system was unavailable “due to technical issues caused by demand,” according to a message posted on Rowan registrar’s website. As a result, registration for next year’s seniors was postponed until Wednesday morning. The system crashed again Wednesday for the first half hour registration reopened.

Later, a spokesperson for the Office of the Registrar explained further that “the system was overloaded by the number of simultaneous hits” when registration opened. Although the problem was later “fixed,” the Information Resources and Technology Center announced to students that it would be limiting the number of students who could simultaneously access banner in an effort to improve stability. Those who were unable to reach the system were advised to continue trying.

If this were an isolated event at Rowan, students likely wouldn’t have thought much of it past the initial frustration of having to put off registration for a few hours. But between network outages before spring break, a ClearPass system which hasn’t been without its hiccups for years, and now banner’s inability to handle a function as necessary as class registration, students were understandably over the edge.

Part of the explanation for the crash was that fall registration pushes the system to handle more people than any other time of the year. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Unlike other universities, Rowan opens registration to all seniors at the same time, as opposed to dividing them into time slots, which would understandably result in an above-average number of students trying to access banner. So why wasn’t the spike in activity anticipated?

For years students have complained about difficulties when connecting to Rowan’s Wi-Fi network. Connecting devices other than macs and PCs often results in mind-numbing frustration and a trip to Memorial Hall. But recent problems have blown past buffering videos and lagging video games.

The reality is that the internet accounts for a lot more of students’ activities than it did even five years ago. Most classes now are made up of some online component, such as posting reading materials to Blackboard, requiring assignments to be submitted via turnitin.com, or having timed quizzes which are taken from home online. So, network systems which are unreliable create a lot more problems for students than just interrupting Netflix (although it is a pain trying to watch Netflix sometimes too).

What makes the registration problems so much more frustrating than those issues is the fact that registration doesn’t pop up out of a vacuum. It’s scheduled for at least weeks in advance, and the university must have at least a ballpark figure of how many students it anticipates to be logging on in the morning. And the consequences for missing registration by even an hour can have real ramifications for seniors who need classes to graduate. When those classes fill, there aren’t many options left for the student stuck waiting for a seat to open.

If this were an isolated incident, then students’ complaints could be mistaken for childish whining from a generation stereotyped as impatient and expecting of handouts. But Rowan’s internet and other network services have been far from perfect for a long time, and the impact of those problems is starting to reach a critical point between annoying and damaging. At this point, for a major public university, it’s not just a hiccup, it’s embarrassing.

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