NEWS

Community Reflects on Network Outage

By Zach Jonas '22 || Issue 148-14

On Feb. 11, the college experienced a campus-wide network outage as a result of outdated infrustructure. Amid the outage, students, faculty and other community members were unable to access email and other online services. Photo courtesy of Matai Curzon '22.

After a week of network outages beginning on Monday, Feb. 11, the Information Technology (IT) department restored the network to its normal functions. Yet, the week-long outage posed significant challenges for students completing coursework, faculty conducting classes and staff performing other administrative tasks.


The outage impacted everyone on campus. The amherst.edu website was down, card readers prevented students from doing laundry and services like email and Moodle were inaccessible. Additionally, weekly paychecks could not be issued as normal. Instead, weekly-paid workers at the college were paid the same amount as the week prior.


“We are still experiencing a system outage, which means that the payroll department does not have access to key personnel records,” read a Feb. 14 AC Alert update.


“The staff understood that it was a difficult situation for everyone,” said Eric Moulton, a dining services financial analyst. “Our concern was mostly how the system outage impacted the students and the staff, classes and stuff. We were going to get food out to people, and we were going to get paid, but how does that affect our customer base? We didn’t have those answers.”


“I think the college has been working as hard as they can,” Moulton added. “It caught everyone off guard. A catastrophic failure like this: what are we going to do? We all rely on the network. But everyone in our department came together to try to make it as minimally impactful for the students as we could.”


Marie Fagan ’22 said that the outages greatly impacted her school work. “During some of my classes, we had nothing to talk about — all of our reading material was online. It impacted what I could do. My family has a limited cellular data plan, so I have been limiting my time on my devices. I had to get ahead on my work for this weekend when I will be competing in a swim meet, but now I am further behind,” Fagan said.


“There are so many brilliant people here. I am at a point where I am thinking, how has this gone on for so long?” she added.
Some students found creative ways to circumvent their lack of Wi-Fi and data plans.


Abe Zuraw ’22 went to the IT department following the outage in search if Wi-Fi.


“I figure, the Wi-Fi isn’t just down. It’s down for some people, so there must be Wi-Fi on campus somewhere. I go down to the IT department and ask them to put me on their Wi-Fi. They agree, and for the rest of the day, I was the only student on campus with Wi-Fi. They gave me their hotspot. It was a strong signal, and they let me use it in Seeley Mudd. They also said, ‘Don’t tell anyone,’” Zuraw said.


Eunice Daudu ’21 said that one of her classes was canceled, but she has still been busy. “I have been applying to summer internships, so it’s nice to have more free time to do those. I have a limited data plan, but even if I do use that, I can’t connect to Moodle where all my work is. In terms of my classes, I have been pretty unproductive. What’s the point of me being here if there’s no Wi-Fi?” she said.


As of Feb. 15, Wi-Fi and network capabilities have returned to normal functions, with the college working towards easing the transition to Gmail.