Technology on Campus


How StFX can keep up in the digital age

I’m sure that most faculty members and students can remember where they were and how inconvenienced their lives became when the wifi and campus network went down last fall. The situation highlighted that StFX may not be keeping up with technology.

To be fair, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with the fast pace of technological change today. Most of us carry around smartphones that are more powerful than the computers they used to get to the moon almost 50 years ago. While StFX has kept up with most of the technologies that people now expect, like wifi, they have many ways they could improve in order to stay relevant as a post-secondary institution.

As evident from the wifi going down last year and for brief periods this year, StFX should work on maintaining the quality of its network. With spotty connections in some areas of campus like near Bloomfield and sometimes will refuse even to let you connect, there are succinct areas for improvement. StFX’s network is also highly connected to everything from accounts to printers, which is why it went down so quickly when it was hacked through accessing the printing network. Given that, StFX should be investing in creating a more secure network that doesn’t go down with one attempt to mine bitcoin, along with increasing the overall quality of the wifi.

Email is also a technology issue that StFX has problems with. Many students and faculty are bombarded by the bulk emails that StFX sends out, and IT services has no idea who actually controls the account. There have also been incidents of targeted phishing and email ransom threats through the email system in the past. Email is an important means of communication for students and faculty alike, which means that StFX should be committed to making it secure and that the right information gets to the right audience.

StFX should also consider making an integrated platform for students that has access to all the services they need. The services to check account balances, register for courses or residence, check grades, and more are currently scattered across different systems including Banner and MesAmis. This makes it difficult to keep track of where to go for services and means having several different passwords to access the different sites. Many other Canadian universities offer an integrated student portal or platform, so StFX should seriously consider making one for the ease of convenience and to stay competitive with other post-secondary institutions.

One area that StFX has kept up with technological changes is by investing in a learning management system, or Moodle. Moodle, like systems such as Desire2Learn and Canvas, provide online tools for course material, grades, and discussions that help make courses more accessible and interactive. Given that more students are choosing to do online or distance courses, StFX has made an excellent decision by catering to that market through Moodle. However, from personal experience, not all courses are available on Moodle and some faculty members don’t use it, which is an area that StFX could improve upon.

Social media is also playing an increasing role in post-secondary education, which StFX has kept up with reasonably well. Having multiple social media accounts that provide information about the university to those on campus, along with prospective students, is a step forward. Events on campus are readily advertised on social media as well, which can be helpful for groups that may not have gotten the publicity otherwise. Adapting to social media can be beneficial for StFX, provided it is done constructively to build the university’s image or for publicity.

Photo: Facebook @stfxuniversity

Photo: Facebook @stfxuniversity

On the flip side, many things that the university would rather not showcase also get out through social media. It’s easy to find photos of parties and other damaging content to StFX’s reputation on social media platforms, which isn’t good for the university given they’ve tried to distance themselves from party culture. The university also posted pictures on social media from an open house earlier this year for prospective students, which conveniently covered up the protest that occurred at the same event over StFX’s sexual violence policy. StFX has every right as a business to curate the image they present on social media, but they should be aware that it’s simple to find inconsistencies in a digital world.

StFX may soon be having to adapt to new technologies as well, along with refining the technology they already have. As drone usage becomes more widespread, perhaps the technology could be integrated for security purposes at large events on campus. The university could also adopt bots or artificial intelligence to answer questions directed to their Facebook page, or create an app that has information for students. New technological innovations are always around the corner and should be considered as ways for campus to be a leader in the digital age.

StFX has adopted many of the technologies that we take for granted; however, they have a long road ahead when it comes to addressing the issues in their current systems and dealing with the complexities of social media. If the university wants to remain a relevant and competitive post-secondary institution, it should invest in their technological capabilities to remain on top of the game.


U.S. Justice Department Investigates Tesla


A reminder to be careful when posting on social media

The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the car manufacturer Tesla, after billionaire chairman and CEO Elon Musk shared plans of taking the company private over Twitter. In a tweet posted at 12:48pm ET on August 7, Musk said:  

“Am thinking of taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”

At a price tag of $420 per share, a private buyout would result in a 16% premium on shares prices at the time of the original tweet. After questions regarding current shareholder ownership began to flood throughout the Twitterverse, Musk fired-off a second tweet:

“All current investors remain with Tesla even if we’re private. Would create special purpose fund enabling anyone to stay with Tesla. Already do this with Fidelity’s SpaceX investment.”

During the following two hours, Tesla stock proceeded to climb higher and higher on the tailwinds of the tweet, before NASDAQ officials halted trading at 2:08pm ET. Trading halts generally occur when a publicly traded company is going to release important news about itself, and generally lasts for a period of an hour. The halt provides market participants with the opportunity to assess the significance and impact of the news. According to the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) website, a second type of halt occurs when there is uncertainty whether a security continues to meet the market’s listing standards. Given that the halt on Tesla trading occurred two hours after the unexpected news was announced, it did not fall under either of these situational guidelines. As reported by MarketWatch, many investors who were actively trading at the time of the news felt disadvantaged by the lack of clarity and information surrounding the announcement. Once trading resumed at 3:45pm ET, Tesla shares jumped 10% before closing at $379.57, 9.5% higher than their opening price. 

The unexpected tweet and subsequent market fluctuation resulted in more than a few ruffled feathers. The SEC moved swiftly and served Tesla with a subpoena within days of the tweet; a subpoena from the SEC generally requires approval from top officials, indicating that the tweets by Musk were being taken seriously. At the time of this writing, the SEC has indeed opened a civil investigation into the company and their plans for privatization.

Throughout the following days, it became more apparent that Musk’s “funding secured” was far from the truth. In a blog post published by the billionaire entrepreneur, Musk explained that a Saudi sovereign wealth fund had expressed interest in a bid to take Tesla private. According to Musk he’d had several meetings with the Saudis, each one more reassuring then the last. On August 24, however, he announced that he would be heeding shareholders concerns regarding the private buyout and abandon the endeavour. 

In addition to the SEC, shareholders also took action against Musk - by August 10, a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by short-seller Kalman Isaacs had been filed against Musk and Tesla on behalf of all investors who bought shares after the tweet. Isaacs alleges that the tweets were intentionally fraudulent, in an attempt to punish those who had shorted the company by sending stock prices soaring. It’s worth noting that Isaacs was indeed short at least 3,000 shares of Tesla and sold them in a panic once the stock price hit $376. 

A SEC investigation and class-action lawsuit would be enough to send any company into an all-hands-on-deck damage control frenzy; however, we appear to have only touched the tip of the iceberg. Early last week, Tesla confirmed the U.S. Department of Justice had contacted the company following Musk’s tweets:

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,”.

While the Department of Justice investigation is still in its early stages, a criminal investigation does not bode well for any company. As reported by Bloomberg, former Department of Justice prosecutor Paul Pelletier was quoted saying: 

“Criminal investigations are never good if you’re a public company because they open up a Pandora’s box and prosecutors will follow threads wherever they lead,” 

Tesla has reassured the public that they are cooperating with the DOJ have not received any subpoenas, although general DOJ inquiries and queries have been fielded by the management. While there is no guarantee that the DOJ’s investigation of Tesla will lead to charges being pressed, experts have warned that the investigation could last for months. 

Time will tell whether the recent revelations have a lasting impact on Tesla’s success and growth. For a company which has recently haemorrhaged cash over botched Model 3 production automation, anything which detracts attention from their ability to produce vehicles should warrant caution and swift restorative action.