Very soon, Swarthmore will have to select the next director of ITS.
This is an important decision. Technology has become an integral part of the college experience, and the Director of ITS tends to be around for a long time—the current Director, Judy Downing, is on to her 21st year in the position.
The Editorial Board of the Daily Gazette urges the Swarthmore community to keep a few points in mind as the decision is made between Eric Behrens ’92 and Gayle Barton.
While the position of ITS Director is primarily a managerial role, it is also a position that has enormous influence in directing where Swarthmore goes next with technology. The next Director of ITS should be an evangelist for new technology, ready to see new ideas and sell them to the students and staff.
The Swarthmore faculty is not a bastion of technologists. One of the most important jobs of the next Director of ITS is getting technology to be used as an educational tool in and outside of the classroom. Thus, we need a Director who is not only visionary, but also able to articulate the values of technology to a sometimes reluctant body of professors and staff.
Swarthmore prides itself on supporting student activism. Increasingly, student activism will focus on technology-related issues—from campaigning for the One Laptop per Child initiative and fighting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to protesting companies that aid dictatorial regimes and advocating for projects like Open Courseware. Swarthmore, and ITS in particular, has supported these causes before. The next Director of ITS should be ready and willing to work alongside students on these vital issues.
Finally, last semester, Spring 2007, Judy Downing explained to the Daily Gazette that ITS at Swarthmore has a tendency to operate in fireman-mode, focusing on fixing problems and perpetually narrowly averting disaster. Some of the major changes made in the past semester regarding virtual machines and advanced back-up hardware has probably helped lessen the prevalence of this mindset, but the next Director of ITS should be someone who can work with the staff of ITS to develop a strategic vision. While, obviously, keeping the network and the services working day-to-day is important, the next Director should help foster a completely different approach to technology at the College.
We have high hopes and great expectations for the next Director.