Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

WiFi Down For Five Days: 'Hell Is Real And It's Amherst College'

Amherst Logo (2019)Inside Higher Ed, No Email, No Wi-Fi, No Learning Management System:

Amherst College experienced a catastrophic technical mishap last week that left the campus without access to online services — for five days.

As IT staff scrambled to fix the problem, faculty and students suddenly found themselves without access to Wi-Fi, email, Moodle, accounting systems, card-scanning systems or any content hosted on the website.

That a scenario totally inconceivable on most modern campuses occurred at the wealthy private, liberal arts college in Amherst, Mass., was doubly surprising.

"How could this happen?" became a common refrain on campus. How could an elite college with a $2.2 billion endowment and that charges more than $50,000 in tuition a year fail to provide basic services, such as internet access?

With Wi-Fi services down, some students used their cellphone data to tweet their disbelief.


David Hamilton, chief information officer at Amherst, said “everything” the college does online was affected. Information technology staff worked round the clock to repair the network, he said. ... Aging network infrastructure, hardware failures and wiring issues were the culprits, he said. The network was designed about 20 years ago and had its last hardware upgrade a decade ago. Plans were already in place to replace the network, which can be a costly undertaking, but “we got caught before we had that solution in place,” said Hamilton. ...

Shawna Chen, a junior majoring in English at Amherst and editor in chief of The Amherst Student, said ... "It wasn’t just the Wi-Fi. Our dorm [security] system defaulted to unlocked. Our laundry cards didn’t work. We couldn’t access Moodle. The entire website was down. Handshake, our career services platform, was down. Printing was down."

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That people would call this hell, when there are American soldiers in Afghanistan and several million refugees, tells you a lot about today's students (and professors)

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Mar 1, 2019 2:11:32 AM

"I can't speak to the budget at Amherst, but many institutions have seen a decline in their IT budget," he [Kenneth C. Green] said.

"In the 2018 Campus Computing Survey, 56 percent of 242 institutions surveyed said that upgrading or replacing the campus network was important or very important. In the same survey, 67 percent of institutions said that their IT funding had not fully recovered from budget cuts experienced over the past four to six years."

IT budgets down? Slow recovery from funding cuts over recent years? And this is happening simultaneously with tuition increases and staggering amounts of student debt? Forgive me, but something in this picture doesn't compute.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Feb 28, 2019 5:54:48 AM

Can’t do laundry or lock the dorm door because Internet was down: now that is a great example of how fragile our infrastructure is becoming. So convenient when it works that such is likely to keep developing, but such a big problem when it doesn’t work that perhaps, just perhaps, people should create back up systems before the primary falls apart. What happens when there is no water to drink because the electrical grid either fails or is taken down by hackers?

Posted by: Penrod | Feb 27, 2019 11:29:47 AM

With no paper card catalog, it would be hard to find books in the library...

Posted by: John Saunders | Feb 27, 2019 9:46:35 AM

This is why in the military you still need to be able to navigate with map and compass. The first thing the Chinese will do is shut down GPS.

I have sympathy for this, but it does go to show that over reliance on tech is a real crutch in many ways.

Posted by: Froggy | Feb 27, 2019 8:52:09 AM

The Professor cant teach, because WIFI is down ?

Pathetic excuse.

Posted by: Doug Maenpaa | Feb 27, 2019 6:47:41 AM


Posted by: Cappy | Feb 27, 2019 6:41:58 AM

I wonder how much they spend *yearly* on diversity training and bloated salaries.
Sounds like their IT management needs to find other employment.

Posted by: howardm4 | Feb 27, 2019 6:10:21 AM

Ah the poor precious little darlings. I assume you could still open and read the analogue files (i.e. books)? And when I was first at university we wrote all our assignments by hand. Give it a try.

Posted by: Roberto | Feb 27, 2019 6:03:46 AM

During this time, students and faculty rediscovered books and reach other, had conversations and made real friendships, and actually learned. Not so bad, I'd say.

Posted by: anon | Feb 27, 2019 5:11:00 AM

They can think of it as good practice for when the entire U.S. grid goes down some day.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Feb 27, 2019 3:53:08 AM