November 3, 2010

C.U. Names New Chief Information Officer

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Cornell named Ted Dodds, vice provost for information technology at the University of British Columbia, chief information officer and vice president for the University. Dodds will assume his post on Jan. 17, and “will develop long-term technology strategies that focus on value-added services … [and] continue cost-reduction initiatives that are in progress,” the University said in a statement.“Just about every aspect of the business operations — the research mission, the teaching and learning process — they all run on I.T.,” Dodds said. “I think we need to step back a little bit and look at what is the best strategy for Cornell to follow.”The Information Technology task force report, released in July as part of the Reimagining Cornell effort, suggests centralizing the administration of the department. Dodds said he was not sure about which policies proposed in the report would be implemented, but he said he would address the issue early on in his tenure.“Governance of I.T. at the University is something that has been given some thought already … but I think there are some things we can do to improve,” Dodds said. “How priorities get set, who gets involved in setting I.T. priorities, how decisions are made and how can people get involved in the process to get their voice heard … [are] just some questions that have to be addressed.”Another concern that Dodds said he will consider is Student Assembly Resolution 2, which calls for the University to purchase “verifiable conflict-free” electronics, as reported by the Security Exchange Commission, when available. Congress passed legislation in May, condemning human rights abuses by armed rebel groups in eastern Congo; since sale of valuable minerals from these areas funded the militant groups, Congress required all U.S. stock exchange-listed companies to report to SEC about the origin of minerals in the products they sell.“I think the spirit of the resolution is very laudable … It’s a very good value for the University to put forward,” Dodds said. “What I don’t know is how feasible it is to procure those conflict-free [electronics] and … I really want to look into [its feasibility] … and certainly try to support that.”Cmail, Cornell’s student e-mail service, is supported through Google, a company whose overarching web services have sparked many privacy concerns at some colleges. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Google does not state explicitly in its privacy policy about how private email information is gathered, how long it is stored or how it could be used.On Tuesday, Google sent a message to all of its web-mail users, including Cmail account holders, about a recent class action lawsuit that claimed the company automatically enrolled web-mail users in Buzz, Google’s social networking application. Plaintiffs claimed Buzz exposed personal data, including users’ most frequent contacts, without adequate user consent, and the parties settled out of court. The settlement required Google to set up a, “$8.5 million Common Fund to fund organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education,” according to, the class action group’s website.“Privacy is very front and center. In Canada, we are unable to use U.S.-hosted providers like Google because of information privacy concerns,” Dodd said. “However … the majority of us … have had these email accounts from large providers outside the University … and [Cmail] is the same system we use for personal mail. I don’t think it’s necessarily more secure through custom in-house solutions … but we need to make sure we have strong [privacy] contracts with these providers, which I assume Cornell has already put in place.”Dodds said he will implement a new financial system right away in order to streamline the complex accounting system that Cornell currently uses. The University will use a suite of software provided by the Kuali Foundation, an open-source software non-profit in which Dodds is a board member.“It’s a community-source software developed by universities for universities … and Cornell is as involved as some of the other institutions in implementing Kuali,” Dodds said.According to Dodds, the three systems that will be implemented are Kuali Financial Systems, a web-based financial application, Kuali Coeus, a research administration system, and Kuali Enterprise Workflow, a human resource solution that streamlines work processes.Looking into the future, Dodds reiterated his open-mindedness about what will be implemented.“I don’t know what a lot of [projects] would be in concrete terms … but I will probably be spending a lot of the time getting to know people, [including] the large distributive I.T. departments … students, staff and faculty, to understand what’s working for them now [and] what’s not working,” Dodds said.

Original Author: Andrew Hu