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 September 1, 1999

Colleges say upgrades have them ready for for any Y2K glitches

Colleges and universities have had one of the more daunting tasks in the recent scramble for Y2K preparation.

Often relying on varied campuswide and departmental information networks, as well as outside vendors, academia in Boulder County have seen an increased workload in warding off the millennium bug and are optimistic about the results.

“I don’t expect to get off scot-free, but I don’t expect any major glitches. I’m not of ‘the sky is falling’ mentality,´ said Gary Pratt, director of information technology for Front Range Community College, which has two Boulder County campuses.

Pratt noted that Front Range’s preparations were aided by a $6.9 million technology grant from the state, which funded a campuswide upgrade to Y2K-compliant technology. He also said that Front Range is dependent on the millennial preparedness of others, stating, “Of course, we’re relying on third party vendors, so we’re at their mercy.”

He noted that New Year’s is mid-year for a college, preempting many of the problems that a traditional calendar might predicate. Systems were scheduled for upgrades and tests before

fall classes started, for example, rather than in January.

One such third party vendor is the State Board of Community Colleges, which handles student information for Front Range and 13 other Colorado schools.

“We’ve been working on it for a long time,´ said Dan Tacker, the board’s network services manager. He noted that the SBCC’s systems have been using Year 2000 dates for one and a half years, necessitated by post-2000 graduation years. Tacker thinks that the transition from century to century will be fairly seamless and that “nothing mission critical” will occur. “We think our administrative systems are in real good shape,” he said.

At the University of Colorado-Boulder, a similar Y2K outlook reigns.

“I am pretty optimistic,´ said Tom Carney, the emergency management coordinator from CU-Boulder’s Department of Public Safety, Environmental Health and Safety Division. “(My opinion is that Y2K will be) far from total chaos.”

Carney noted that a detailed inventory of systems was conducted by 200 departmental liaisons, a process that lasted several months. From this inventory, 80 percent of CU-Boulder’s systems have been cleared for Y2K operability. A few have potential problems, Carney noted, adding that 100 percent compliance is the eventual goal.

At Front Range’s Boulder County campuses, nearly every non-Pentium personal computer on campus was upgraded. “We decided not to test it and replaced everything, equipment-wise,” Pratt said. For lab upgrades at their Longmont and North Boulder campuses, the college spent a combined $60,000; another $9,000 was dedicated to modernizing staff computers, explained Pratt. “That’s been our biggest move,” he said. “That’s where our biggest liability is, on the desktop.”

The SBCC’s Tacker said Y2K upgrades occupied one full-time staff member for six months, aided by numerous other “pinch-hitting” efforts.

The consensus No.1 challenge impeding Boulder County colleges’ Y2K readiness are the bugs inherent to computer applications that are already in use.

Front Range’s Pratt noted that he already had been affected by such glitches, using a Microsoft application. “My machine didn’t start smoking, and the countdown didn’t start,” he joked. Of millennium paranoia, Pratt said, “A lot of it is fanaticism,” predicting a relatively easy transition for Boulder County and the rest of the country. He was more pessimistic, however, about the rest of the world.

CU-Boulder’s Carney sees a bright side to all of the work that has gone into Y2K preparedness. “It gives you a good reason to bring into alignment and to standardize some systems,” he noted. His opinions about the preparation of the United States and other countries are analogous to Pratt’s: optimistic and pessimistic, respectively.

One popular millennium readiness policy at area institutions of higher learning and related organizations: a limitation on vacations around the turn of the century. The SBCC has disallowed vacations for pertinent staff during the months of December and January. Likewise, Front Range computing staff have agreed to all come in on New Year’s Day, 2000, a Saturday. “We’ve already decided who’s bringing the donuts and who’s bringing the coffee,´ said Pratt.

Colleges and universities have had one of the more daunting tasks in the recent scramble for Y2K preparation.

Often relying on varied campuswide and departmental information networks, as well as outside vendors, academia in Boulder County have seen an increased workload in warding off the millennium bug and are optimistic about the results.

“I don’t expect to get off scot-free, but I don’t expect any major glitches. I’m not of ‘the sky is falling’ mentality,´ said Gary Pratt, director of information technology for Front Range Community College, which has two Boulder…

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