Last week was a complicated one for Lou’s List and me.
On Monday, July 30, 2012, I began taking heat from ITS (UVa’s Information Technology Services) for the data-mining portion of Lou’s List—the part that extracts class information from SIS, the University’s Student Information System. Teresa Wimmer (Senior Director, Enterprise Applications, ITS) sent me an email implying that Lou’s List was responsible for overloading UVa’s CSPRD (presumably the University’s main production computer system and database) and that my data-mining had to stop.
For 3 years, I had received nothing but complaints from ITS, usually about my data-mining activities. Moreover, UVa’s Administration, including VP-CIO James Hilton, had never acknowledged the existence of Lou’s List and I was constantly in fear of having them force me to stop host it. Every few months, rumors would circulate that Lou’s List was about to be shut down by ITS and/or the Administration. Although I refined my data-mining to be as minimally invasive to SIS as possible, I continued to walk on egg shells.
That Monday, I finally wore out. As I exchanged a series of emails with Ms. Wimmer, I decided that perhaps it was time for me to abandon Lou’s List. If the University was going to be so determinately hostile to Lou’s List, I didn’t need the grief. Furthermore, Ms. Wimmer cited survey results indicating that Lou’s List was no longer important to students.
At about 1:00 PM on Tuesday, July 31, I posted the following popup on the entry page of Lou’s List, entitled “Future of Lou’s List”:
Once again, I am under severe pressure from the UVa administration to shut down Lou’s List (see emails here). According to ITS, Lou’s List is of declining importance and SIS is already too overloaded to accommodate my data-mining.
Since maintaining Lou’s List requires a fair amount of volunteer work and it frequently gets me into trouble, I am considering shutting it down in early September. If you would like me to continue operating Lou’s List, however, please let me and the UVa Administration know soon.
By 4:00 PM, I had received almost 300 emails about Lou’s List. To date (August 6), I have only managed to read and reply to about half of them, but those I have read are unanimously in favor of my continuing Lou’s List and some are quite outspoken in their support of my efforts. A few of those emails were directed to the UVa Administration and copied to me, and others asked how their author’s could convey support of Lou’s List to the Administration. I will post a compilation of quotations from those emails here when I have time.
At about 4:10 PM, VP-CIO Hilton called me to say that “we are not trying to shut Lou’s List down” and he asked me to take down my posting on Lou’s List. I agreed to change it. In his 4:19 PM email, immediately following our conversation, VP Hilton wrote:
Obviously I have a few emails to respond to over the confusion today. Consistent with our discussion, I plan to tell folks that we have no plans to shut Lou’s List down. What we would like to do, is to collaborate to see if we can improve SIS, the iPhone App, and Lou’s List (if there is room for improvement). Sound right to you?
At that time, I revised the posting on Lou’s List, retitling it “Lou’s List is Safe for Now” and changing it to:
I just talked with VP James Hilton and he assures me that ITS does not want to shut down Lou’s List. He and I will talk soon about trying to coordinate our efforts, but please rest assured that nothing is going to happen to Lou’s List at this point. To those of you who voiced your support to me and to the administration, please accept my gratitude.
I later changed the posting to:
VP James Hilton called me on the afternoon of 7/31/2012 to assure me that ITS does not want to shut down Lou’s List. Coming 3 years after I created it, that conversation was the first acknowledgement by the UVa Administration that Lou’s List exists and it finally gives me implicit permission to host that list.
VP Hilton and I will talk soon about trying to coordinate our efforts, but please rest assured that nothing destructive is going to happen to Lou’s List at this point. To those of you who voiced your support to me and to the administration, I am truly grateful.
At long last, I can stop walking on egg shells. I never expect praise or thanks from the Administration and I knew that there would be no apologies beyond “Sorry for the confusion.” However, I got what is most important: acknowledgement of Lou’s List and implicit permission to host it.
August 6, 2012
Postscript: I had lunch with James Hilton and he further assured me that Lou’s List is not in danger. In fact, he realizes that Lou’s List is essential to the University and is concerned that it would disappear if something happened to me. He plans to arrange a meeting between me and people from ITS to try to improve the relationship between Lou’s List and SIS. Hilton offered no substantive support for Lou’s List, however, and Lou’s List remains a self-funded and voluntary activity for me.
August 7, 2012