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Coconino Community College, Ariz., Nixes Plan for Outsourcing IT

The college tabled a proposed agreement with CampusWorks for managed IT services, which would have required members of the college's IT department to either agree to work for CampusWorks or resign by Friday.

three people at laptops with headsets providing IT services
(TNS) — Coconino Community College (CCC) faculty and students filled the room at a meeting of the college's governing board Tuesday to speak against a proposed change to information technology services that IT staff say would mean changes to their employment with the college.

The item in question is a proposed agreement with CampusWorks for managed IT services at CCC.

Members of the IT department said they were informed of the change Monday and that if it took effect, they would need to either agree to work for CampusWorks or resign from CCC by Friday.

After hearing about 20 comments from meeting attendees who opposed the change, CCC President Eric Heiser asked to remove the item from consideration to "re-evaluate internally in terms of what change needs to happen."

"It is abundantly clear to me that we do need to re-evaluate this decision," Heiser said.

He added: "In order to move to where we need to be as a college, change is going to happen. However, this way or moving in the direction that we were, it's very clear to me — as the president of this college — is not the right move."

The meeting room was filled with CCC students and staff as well as community members who had come to protest the decision alongside members of the IT department. They asked that this change not happen, citing positive experiences with the current IT department and concerns about the proposal moving IT services and funding out of Flagstaff and Coconino County.

"IT professionals deserve better at CCC. Our students deserve better," Flagstaff resident and former CCC employee Kim Shaw said in a comment at the meeting. " ... I know that the staff are upset and worried they're going to be replaced, and I think the community's going to lose its trust in CCC's ability to manage funds."

Jeff Jones, a former IT director at the college, said CCC had used third parties for IT services before, including CampusWorks. A 2008 IT services report from CampusWorks said it began a contract with CCC in November of 2007.

"One of the problems with the third-party piece is that you begin at a certain level and those costs ramp up, so initially it looks like you're going to save some money and it does not," Jones said. "The challenge we have is to train the existing folks and hire new folks that we can trust, that are local. ... We dealt with it a few years ago, and I don't see why once again we're looking at the same model."

Due to Heiser's request to remove the item, board members' discussion at the meeting focused on the need for change in CCC's approach to IT rather than the specifics of this proposal. Each said this did not mean the department would continue unchanged, but that they would consider other adjustments.

"It's clear that there potentially is a better way through this that we can work together," Heiser said. "But I do want to stress: that does not mean we're going to go back to the status quo. However, it is clear that this action is not what's in the best interest for this college or this community and most importantly for our students."

Board members said changing the approach to IT had been discussed for more than a year prior to this meeting, in response to concerns about the college's ability to respond to IT needs beyond everyday maintenance and customer service.

"This board has been asking for years for data," said member Patrick Hurley. "Our IT department has not had the ability to provide things the board needs and wants. In recent years, it's becoming more and more prevalent our inability with the data we need to make informed decisions that benefit the health and life of the college as whole. ... Some way, somehow, we're going to drag this IT department up to the status we need it to be to provide the information."

Member Nat White said artificial intelligence and cybersecurity had been brought up at national and state meetings he'd recently attended as "overwhelming" challenges that were only expected to grow. Similarly, member Patricia Garcia brought up the need to prevent cybersecurity or ransomware attacks as well as identity theft as part of the board's responsibility to make this change

"That world is going to get tougher, so we have to be really prepared for it," White said.

The next meeting of CCC's district governing board is set for 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15.

©2024 The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Ariz.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.