What’s Wrong with the University of Miami IT Policy

The University of Miami campus network and IT policy has problems. It's a big part of life for college students and faculty, so this is a call to action. Here are a few frustrating things that the IT department at Miami should try to improve.

1) University e-mail forwarding is prohibited

You aren't allowed to forward your umiami.edu email to Gmail or Hotmail. Why? UMail administrators justify this policy with a claim that "third party providers regularly block forwarded messages from the University of Miami as a result of their protocols." (https://umshare.miami.edu/_catalogs/masterpage/Help/General_Info.html#WhyAddressPointToUmail) This claim is unjustified:
- It is the university's responsibility to see that their mailservers are kept off SPAM blacklists.
- Students could be instructed to add umiami.edu to their SPAM whitelist.

Classroom mailing lists are built with UMail emails. I've been burned on getting important class information because I don't check my UMail every day. I simply do not always remember to log in -- whereas I'm instantly notified of GMail on my phone. People streamline their email habits over time, but with this UMail policy, it's a step back to the internet dark ages.

For those who are wondering, I've tried linking UMail's POP3 to my desktop mail client, but disabled it because of persistent connection errors.

2) Wireless Canes

"Wireless Canes sucks!" I hear this cry of despair many times in a week, mixed with the crash of a fist pounding a laptop keyboard. It's time to simplify the wireless authentication process.

It's absurd to sign in every time we start a new session on the network. New sessions might occur ten times a day. As a security measure, it does more harm than good.
I've utilized wireless internet facilities at many colleges and universities. The overwhelming majority of campus wireless policies work like this: you sign in with your username the first time you use your laptop, then your device is linked to your account and you never have to sign in again. If you want to hook your Playstation up to the network, you can register its MAC address under your user account. But this is impossible at Miami, as XBox live and other console services are not supported on campus.

Let's not forget to mention how inconvenient a session sign on page can be on portable devices like iPhones and iPads.

Users have the option to sign in as a Guest, but they'll be put on a limited pipeline that breaks Youtube among other things. The question has to be asked, exactly what threat is contained when a malicious user can still access the network services as a guest?

I have heard that Miami IT is planning to move to a different system, such as 802.1x Edge authentication, which would authenticate automatically but may require users to install a memory-resident "supplicant" program. This would be an improvement, but leaves something to desire. What about those portable devices?

3) Fragmented website

The University of Miami website has systemic problems. My roommate says, "the UM website search engine just returns randomized pages!" I know all too well that maintaining an enterprise website is a huge challenge. But someone who uses the site daily should be a mouse click away from the source code, so that when something is broken, it gets fixed fast.

Miami's myUM student sign in system needs attention. Users should not see a screen that says "Click here to view the service you requested" after they sign in. Often the link provided doesn't work.

Students are told to schedule appointments at the Health Center through https://mystudenthealth.miami.edu. Yet this website is inaccessible off campus.

All links on this Network Device Registration page are dead links: http://www.miami.edu/index.php/information_technology_security/security_info_for_system_administrators/

I could go on with these particulars. The point: greater priority should be assigned to resolving these problems.

In my opinion, a university's campus network and website, both internal and external, are an important indicator of quality, right next to the traditional measures like academic excellence, faculty resources, and athletic programs. There are ways to run a campus network without frustrating students and faculty. To put a positive spin on this rant, it's a great opportunity for improvement. Put more resources into IT staff, hire some all-star network administrators. The faculty and students will thank you...

One ResponseLeave a Reply

  1. xbox live not supported?! woah bro

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