I.T.’s a Big Problem

Technology Headaches Worsening for Student Union, Staff

Corey Pool

Issues with technology currently plaguing the Concordia Student Union and its staff have escalated from being an annoying headache to a debilitating impairment.

“We are not approaching a danger point” any longer, said VP Clubs and Internal Nadine Atallah to council at last Wednesday’s meeting. “We have entered the phase of meltdown.”

The rest of the CSU executive echoed Atallah’s sentiments, taking turns vocalizing the scale and urgency of the problem, all while earnestly expressing that this issue was one that must be addressed and resolved in the immediate future.

Atallah explained that not only the CSU is being affected, but their staff is as well—and are the ones arguably shouldering the brunt of the problems.

“Our services are reaching a point where [staff] can’t really function anymore,” she said. “They can’t do their job and they can’t serve students anymore—which puts us at a critical point.”

Leanne Ashworth, coordinator at the CSU’s Housing and Job Bank can vouch for that.

“We’ve had trouble accessing our network where our files are stored, have difficulty printing and accessing the Internet and we can no longer update our website,” she said. “It’s really like every day brings a different problem.”

Ashworth says that HOJO has worked together as a team to try and remain functional, however says they could be exponentially more productive and useful if they weren’t stuck dealing with menial tech problems day in and day out.

“Most tasks are taking us three to four times the amount of time they should because of technical difficulties,” she said.

When the issue was brought to discussion at council, many councillors took issue with the fact that the executive had not taken an exhaustive search for a company to resolve these issues to an open tender process, citing concerns that a better price for the same work could have been sought out.

“We’ve had trouble accessing our network where our files are stored, have difficulty printing and accessing the Internet and we can no longer update our website. It’s really like every day brings a different problem.”
— HOJO Coordinator Leanne Ashworth

“I don’t think we have time to go open tender. This issue is very real and it needs to be addressed now,” said CSU President Schubert Laforest. “We are getting to a stage of infinite regressions. At some point we need to just pick a direction so we can move on.”

Laforest says he saw signs of technical issues arising from the time he stepped into office, and that they are product of a series of quick-fixes on the part of previous executives. “What became apparent is that the CSU hasn’t really invested in this kind of thing for about a decade now,” he said. “The only investments that have been done were really patchwork.”

For this reason, Laforest says the current union has been left with dealing with the issue, as a one-off, big-time investment—which, he says, is obviously not ideal.

Councillor Ramy Khoriaty suggested, on behalf of the CSU’s financial committee, that the union hire fellow Councillor Jordan Lindsay to look into the repairs as a more time-efficient and financially sound option than going with a major company.

Lindsay put the situation into context for council.

“Council needs to decide whether we want our executive and staff handicapped for a month or if we are willing to suffer an extra potential $20,000 handicap [by not going to open-tender] to fix this faster.”

As debate continued, a defeated-looking Laforest sat at the head of the table. “We are at a point when we are being asked to do stuff with our hands tied behind our back,” he said.

“We came to this discussion to be transparent, but a decision needs to be made now—I can’t have executives who can’t access their data and staff that can’t help students.”

The final decision came in the form a motion to go to open tender regarding both website and document management, while allowing Lindsay to look into hardware issues, between the two pre-selected companies—Acceo and Extanet—and report back.