MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVI No. 4
February / March 2004
The New President
The New President
Improving Our System
of Faculty Governance
Update on Women Faculty in the
School of Engineering
Recommendations for Improving
Faculty Quality of Life
FRADS Supports Faculty Fundraising
Reminiscences: Fifty Years on the Engineering Faculty
A Formal Recommendation
to the MIT Corporation
The Center for International Studies
The Clinical Research Center
The Operations Research Center
Beyond Fuzzy Definitions of Community:
A Report and an Invitation
Cambridge and MIT:
Exchanging Students, Exchanging Ideas
Information Services & Technololgy (IS&T):
The Focus is on Service
Campus Growth (1985 – Present)
Printable Version

Information Services & Technology (IS&T):
The Focus is on Service

Jerrold M. Grochow

Where to go for information and help (click here)

On November 1, Dr. Jerrold M. Grochow became MIT's Vice President for Information Services and Technology. He also became manager of the central computing service departments during their reorganization. The Information Services and Technology (IS&T) department has grown out of the merger of Information Systems (IS) and Financial Systems Services (FSS) - in conjunction with administrative budget cuts instituted for FY2004 and FY2005.

When I arrived at MIT in November, I asked that the offered title, Vice President for Information Systems, be changed in an important, though perhaps symbolic, way. As I like to point out, "services" comes first because providing service to the MIT community is the primary role of information technology professionals in our central IT organization, as well as in the many other IT groups around campus. Providing IT service means:

  • understanding the goals, missions, and work of the people we serve so that we can better help to find solutions to their IT problems and begin to anticipate their IT needs.
  • listening to our clients so that we can provide better service in the future and leadership in advancing their IT agendas.
  • becoming experts in our field and participating in its advancement.
  • reaching out to the community and making commitments that we deliver.

It is also important to note that "technology doesn't come second" in IS&T - MIT needs to have a technologically advanced information infrastructure and that is very much part of IS&T's job, too.

One of my key goals is to follow through on the recommendations of the internal and external IS/FSS review committees convened in 2002. These committees, composed of members of the community and external experts, recognized that there is confusion on campus about the role of the various information services groups as well as the way that decisions are made regarding resource allocation, budgeting, and charging for information services. Dealing with these issues will require a high degree of collaboration among these many groups (at least 25 by my count) and I have asked the leaders of key IT organizations to join me in the IT Leaders group for regular discussion and information sharing. I am confident that many joint activities will grow out of these meetings.

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We must also establish a new level of understanding and discussion with community advisory groups to improve the visibility of decision-making regarding information services on campus. IS&T will work closely with several existing advisory bodies, including the Council on Educational Technology, the Administrative Systems and Policies Coordinating Council, and the Administrative Advisory Council II. In addition, a new group, the Information Technology Coordinating Council (ITCC), will be appointed by Provost Robert Brown and Executive Vice President John Curry. I will chair this group, which will advise the Provost and Executive Vice President on Institute-wide IT issues and resource allocation decisions.

The Information Services and Technology department itself is in the final stages of absorbing its staff reductions and working through what I am confident will be temporary service issues. The leadership team consists of five directors with direct responsibility for key activities:

The new IS&T organization structure, including group responsibilities, is posted at .

Potential Impacts of Budget Cuts

With support from community-based advisory committees, IS&T is reviewing all services in order to minimize effects of the budget cuts on faculty, staff, and students. We are also looking for better ways to provide existing services so that, over time, we can provide even better services at lower cost. However, there may be some short-term effects on service as work is reviewed and reassigned. Key issues that we are dealing with are:

  • Ensuring the integrity of MIT's campus network: This is, of course, a top priority, but response times to some internal network outages may increase due to smaller staff size.
  • Providing front-line help services: Work is being consolidated and assigned to a single team to improve service in the future.
  • Presales advice and computer repairs: Contact will be relocated to Building N42 (rather than rental space).
  • Athena cluster maintenance: Work is being reassigned and we will make the transition as seamless as possible.
  • Equipment replacement programs for academic and administrative computing: These programs are being reviewed in the context of significantly reduced budgets.
  • SAP upgrades and implementation of SAP-related systems: New and enhanced administrative systems will be developed, but development cycles may be longer.

IS&T will re-evaluate these changes in service as it adjusts to its budget constraints and as it receives feedback from the community. We will be working even harder to ensure that we understand the services that our community wants and that we can provide.

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What's New in the Academic Computing Sphere

IS&T - in conjunction with other MIT units, such as Academic Media Production Services (AMPS) - provides a range of services to support the IT needs of faculty and students. The reorganized Academic Computing group in IS&T will focus on three areas:

  1. Installations and Spaces: Delivery of infrastructure for student/educational computing – including Athena clusters, laptops, classrooms, and special-purpose facilities such as the Building 37 Cluster (
    Contact: Phil Long (
  2. Curriculum Integration Support: Consultation for faculty in the use of educational technology and software tools for undergraduate instruction. This includes support for Stellar, MIT's course management system, as well as for specialized applications for spatial data services, geographic information systems, and mathematics.
    Contact: Phil Long (
  3. Academic Software Services: Management of third-party software and locally developed software integrated into the Athena environment, as well as the delivery of site-licensed software ( ). The software services group has begun outreach to software developers across campus to enable optimal use of the MIT infrastructure and to promote greater awareness of technology specifications and standards, such as the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI ).
    Contact: Jeff Merriman (

Key areas of engagement in the coming months for IS&T's academic computing group include the following:

•  High-Performance Computing (HPC): A new Website is in place ( to support a community of practice - faculty, students, and staff - engaged in research using computationally intensive computing. A pilot undergraduate HPC teaching cluster is also being planned.

•  StellarT and Sakai T: In addition to continued improvements to Stellar, MIT is collaborating with the University of Michigan, Indiana University, and Stanford University in the Sakai course management system project ( This initiative, funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, leverages the work of MIT's OKI and provides direction for the ongoing work of Stellar. Stellar b1.6, released in January, is already hosting 270 courses for spring 2004.

•  One-to-One Computing : MIT has begun to take steps to transform the current centrally managed desktop workstation infrastructure (Athena) to a service-centric model capable of supporting both fixed workstations and mobile computers individually owned by students. As part of these efforts, Academic Computing maintains a loaner laptop program and is piloting a Tablet PC project. Academic Computing will also undertake the redesign of some traditional Athena clusters to pilot different approaches to support student computing needs and provide informal and flexible learning spaces.

•  Leveraging the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) ( OKI will be used for educational technology initiatives such as iLabs and other iCampus/d'Arbeloff projects. It will also be implemented as part of a coherent infrastructure for integrating initiatives such as Stellar, SloanSpace, OpenCourseWare, and DSpace.

•  Crosstalk Seminars and EdTech Partners User Group: These forums will continue to bring educational technology providers and practitioners together to share educational technology strategy and solutions. For more information, see http:/ or send e-mail to .


If you have comments about the reorganization of IS&T, or information technology services in general, please send e-mail to . If you have specific questions about IT services related to academic computing, contact Vijay Kumar, IS&T's director of Academic Computing, at or 253-5023.

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