Swatting the Millennium Bug
All too often, historically Black colleges and universities are burdened with day-to-day activities that are overwhelming, and it can be easy to just drift daily, procrastinating until Jan. 1, 2000, is here. Unfortunately, it will be too late to plan for the much-anticipated Y2K bug.
Due to a variety of reasons, some HBCUs tend to operate on a crisis intervention model, i.e., each day is a crisis, so Y2K is just another crisis. HBCUs may want to be prepared and establish a workable, effective plan of action. HBCUs must begin to become proactive and not always reactive in areas other than Y2K.
HBCUs must also be careful not to develop scholarly plans on paper that they cannot implement. Y2K is not a scholarly exercise, but could severely hamper the health and safety of students and personnel at the institutions.
Since registration continues to be a challenge at most HBCUs, it is one administrative function toward which Y2K planning should be focused. The department of psychology, sociology, and social work at Albany State University is addressing the Y2K problem, with emphasis in the area of registration.
Even during normal times, registration can be a challenge. To avert serious problems, students in the department will be asked to pre-register for the spring 2000 semester in the fall 1999 semester before the year 2000. Students will be informed through e-mail, mail, bulletin board, and classroom announcements to register before the year 2000 to minimize the number of registrants at the beginning of the year 2000 term.
This all sounds great, but we know it is vital to have a “plan B” in case something goes wrong. Therefore, the department will be in a position to register students manually if necessary after the regular registration period, if the institution elects to delay the registration process. In case of an emergency, such as lack of power, computer failure, or other external or internal Y2K problems, students will be allowed to sign up for classes manually utilizing one of the scenarios listed below:
Scenario 1: Computers might fail, but would go back online (intermittent failure). When the computers are functional, staff will enter the registration information to complete the registration process. If conflicts are found, students will be informed by e-mail or by phone.
Scenario 2: Revert to manual registration due to an all-out failure. Register students manually. Use telephone to support process if available.
However, both scenarios are based on a workable contingency plan housed in the Academic Affairs Office. The department has been educated regarding the many possibilities of how each department can negatively be affected by Y2K. This has allowed everyone to work together to come up with solutions that will benefit the entire university.
Albany State University has established a Year 2000 Task Force Committee to work toward eliminating problems that may be caused by Y2K. Other HBCUs would be well advised to also develop plans to deal with Y2K.
I discussed registration, but there are other areas HBCUs may want to work on — such as ordering textbooks and preparing course syllabi early, taking inventory of all departmental equipment, keeping a list of available part-time faculty in case regular faculty have difficulties reporting to work, and making sure the physical plant will have an alternative back-up in the event of power failure.
HBCUs also have a duty to reach out into their surrounding communities and assist with plans of action. Significant planning is taking place in industry and business regarding Y2K, but significant planning must also be done locally for people in small communities.
Y2K may be yet another opportunity for HBCUs to live up to the mission of being involved in the community. The key is not to wait until the 11th hour to plan. Each second the clock ticks, Jan. 1, 2000, draws closer and closer. In no time, Y2K will be upon us!
–Dr. Maxine Agazie, department of psychology, sociology, and social work, Albany State University
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