Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Members Comment on Failures of CUNY First

David Arnow from the Computer and Information Sciences Department at Brooklyn College has expanded his assessment of CUNY First on the PSC web page. In addition, the PSC has encouraged members to write comments about their experiences. Some have echoed David’s assessment and a few others have tried to offer helpful suggestions for managing a bad situation.  Now that many BC faculty have used it for the first time to post grades, it might be a good time to read about other people’s experiences and sound off about your own. Here are a few select comments:

Submitted by Anonymous on May 21, 2013 - 12:44pm.

Dogged HEO staff members have been putting in 13-14 hours days to try to get CUNYfirst to work, basically trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. This on top of implementing Pathways. The system is repeatedly “down.” Even when it is working, it takes about 15 minutes or more to use it to advise a student, whereas in the past, academic advisors could obtain the information they needed from SIMs in about a minute or two. Multiple 15 minutes times the students on your campus and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem.

In 2011 Montclair University sued Oracle for a failed ERP; in fact, the Montclair situation was named one of the 10 biggest ERP software failures of 2011 by Computer World Magazine. Montclair claimed that due to serious mistakes and delays on the part of Oracle, the project cost over $5 million more than the original budget. Montclair also alleged that Oracle staffed the project with unprepared staffers, missed deadlines, didn't adequately test the software, and even used a "rigged" software demonstration that falsely made it seem like some functionality was part of Oracle's base system. This case was recently resolved although I do not know the terms. The last I heard, Cambridge University was also considering suing for the same reasons. (An older suit: Ohio's attorney general filed a lawsuit against PeopleSoft Inc. seeking $510 million in damages stemming from an allegedly faulty installation of the company's ERP and student administration applications at Cleveland State University. Cleveland State University and PeopleSoft USA, Inc. reached a $4.25 million settlement in 2005.) These are just a few lawsuits against PeopleSoft/Oracle by universities; there have been others by private corporations, municipalities and others for cost overruns, poor functionality, missed deadlines, etc. I also believe one of the Univ. of California schools disbanded the product entirely after getting into it almost half way because of how awful it was.

SIMS was imperfect, but was basically responsive to the needs of each college. I’ll never understand why an investment in enhancing SIMS to make it an integrated university-wide system was not done. Just yesterday I spoke to an admissions staff member at SUNY Buffalo where they use Oracle. She described it as a nightmare saying she longs for the days when Buffalo used its own “homegrown” computer information system.

I agree, “we will adjust.” But with the Graduate Center part of the next wave (tsunami?), it is hard to imagine how this very complicated organization (The Graduate School, School of Professional Studies, the Journalism School, Macaulay and especially CUNY BA, the individualized university-wide degree) will fit into CUNYfirst. It is particularly a shame for the Graduate School and CUNY BA, which have invested heavily in resources since 1999 to get Banner to the state it is in now, functioning perfectly for us.

Submitted by Anonymous on May 21, 2013 - 11:19am.

I want to thank you for not only the bold stand you took in your opinion piece in the Clarion, but also for your recognition of HEOs at CUNY and the toll that CF (as we call CUNYfirst) and now Pathways has taken on us.

I am from a Wave 2 school and had to put in enormous hours of OT in the year leading up to our conversion. Now that we are live, CF has slowed down our processes enormously, resulting in extra hours on a routine basis. I rarely leave my office on time. I still have to put in enough extra hours that I end up with a few days off in comp time about three times a year. (And that is with me being somewhat generous in giving time to my college without documenting it since I consider myself a professional and extra hours here and there are part of the job.)

A stack of paperwork arriving on my desk that would take about an hour in SIMS, can take anwhere from 3 to 7 hours, depending on the density of what is included, the complexity of the specifics involved, how slow CF will be on any given day, and how many times it will log me off for no apparent reason.

Even worse is how our end-clients, the students (remember them?), have fared under this system. If those of us who have been using CF for 1-2 years still have problems with it, how can we expect students to master this crucial system?

We were told by someone who was supposedly on the university-wide committee from the beginning that was charged with choosing the vendor, that it came down to two finalists: Oracle and a European company. The person said that the European company was hungry to get into the US market and their presentation, product, and response to questions ran rings around Oracle. Many members of the committee were dumbfounded when Oracle got the contract.

I wouldn't care if this was a workable system, but it is not. It should be clear to anyone who uses CF that it was not meant as a university administration product and that the people who rebuilt it for this market know nothing about college administration and the tasks we have to do on a daily basis. Converting any system is an arduous task, but one usually can expect to get to a point where most things are working well. I don't think CF will ever work well and that we will have problems with it until we finally convert to something else.

I agree with other posts here about the training being inadequate at best. My colleagues who did the CF "Train the Trainer" training were never given any hands-on time in the system. Rather, they were taught how to read Powerpoint presentations out loud (and urged to "smile more"). They themselves were frustrated that they were supposed to train colleagues on campus but were not given the proper training or tools to do so.

Then in the middle of all of the CF problems, we are supposed to implement Pathways, which requires a great deal of administrative retooling in addition to the pedagogical issues. And now we are told that there will be significant changes being made in how financial aid will be delivered, also starting this fall.

How much are we, as HEOs, expected to shoulder at one time? Most of my colleagues are extremely tired, some to the point of increased illnesses. We get little recognition (except for us lucky ones with supervisors who acknowledge our hard work and dedication in the only way they can: thanks and the occasional pizza party) and rarely are eligible for merit raises or other "hard" compensation. And many of us believe that the centralization that CF is supposed to offer will enable "Central" to pull more jobs off-campus (and eliminate some, of course), the way they have moved payroll from the colleges to one central Manhattan location.

Again, I thank you for recognizing HEOs and the work we do to make our colleges run. I feel that the people at "Central" have forgotten what it is like to be on the ground at one of the colleges.

Submitted by Anonymous on May 20, 2013 - 9:21pm.

EPIC FAIL. Those words can't be strong enough. The worst example of corporatizing ever in CUNY. It was foisted on the lowest level of the hierarchy first. Our campus was told it was being tried out on us first before the Manhattan schools. Lovely! Not only is it poorly designed and nonintuitive, it constantly breaks down. It is so buggy that everyone ends up spending much more time on it than the old system. The biggest frustration is that no one seems to no how to fix anything so the same HEOS keep getting bombarded with help questions. One of our best HEOs has resigned b/c after two years she has had it and would rather retire than deal with CUNYFIRST. For faculty, it's a nightmare b/c instead of making it easy to register student, it's harder. My favorite CUNY FIRST story was the time it took 5 hours and five different offices to fix one small item. Trainers are nice but they never have all the information needed. CUNYFirst help desks are staffed by nonHEOS who are sweet but generally don't have advanced answers. And so it goes......if this is representative of the conditions for teaching and learning at CUNY, then we, as an institution ARE AN EPIC FAIL!

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