May Contain Blueberries

the sometimes journal of Jeremy Beker

This morning we had a problem at W&M. We run a piece of software called Blackboard. It is used by professors to post assignments, have discussion boards, give online tests and many other class functions. It is very widely used. We started this semester automatically enrolling students in their Blackboard classes during active semesters. Well, according to our student system, the semester ended yesterday (by semester ending they mean classes being taught, and the School of Ed had their last classes yesterday).

So everyone got un-enrolled from their courses at 12:01 am this morning.


I got a call from a student at about 7:30am. She was a little panicky but very polite. I told her I would handle the issue and call her back as I made progress. I had the issue resolved by 8:15. Annoying, but not that big a deal.

As the morning progressed, we found in the Blackboard support email account about 5 reports of the problem. We let them know that the situation was fixed. I assumed that was all we would hear about the situation.

Then this got forwarded to me:

  From:  [name removed]
  To: <>, <>, <>
  Subject: Regarding Blackboard
  Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 01:42:12 -0500
  X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook, Build 10.0.2627
  Importance: Normal

  I address this message to those parties I feel might be most

  Students access to the blackboard information for classes, which we
may have yet to complete, has been removed. I put it bluntly when I
say that this is absurd. I cannot understand how such an issue would
have been regarded with so little forethought. I do not suspect that I
will suffer as a result of this, but I must deplore this action on
behalf of those students who might. Please forgive any rudeness on my
part, I am not one to generally express displeasure with such angry
words, but a very dear friend of mine, already stressed to her limits
after several consecutive exams, cried from sheer frustration when she
found this to be the case, and I cannot bear to watch others suffer.

   At best, this was an innocent mistake, perhaps one of the many
consequences of Isabel. I cannot help but think, though, that such a
thing does not happen accidentally. Perhaps the more severe
consequences of removal of access may not have been considered, in
which case, I remain curious as to how such an issue could be ignored.
However, if the consequences were considered and this was decided to
be a rational course of action, then I am shocked. Though it may be
too late, all steps to correct this should be taken. I must say, that
be it by choice or by accident, I am disappointed in this esteemed

  [name removed]

Now, let us examine who this dipshit sent the email to: - Patricia M Volp, Dean of Students - Samuel Sadler, Vice President for Student Affairs - Timothy J Sullivan, President

And before getting to me, it was forwarded through: - Karen R Cottrell, Associate Provost for Enrollment - Carolyn S Boggs, University Registrar - Geoff Feiss, Provost

Now, the person you may not notice in that list is the Associate Provost for Information technology. You would think he would be the person this irate student should have contacted, or maybe even the Technology Support Center to see about getting the problem actually fixed. But no.

Let’s not forget that the message was sent at 1:42am. I’m sure President Sullivan is sitting at his computer 24 hours a day to deal with things like this. And he uses Outlook. No comment. Probably a business major; or Political Science