Wake Forest working to meet the challenges of Y2K

While the world speculates about the impact of the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem, Wake Forest University is taking steps to minimize its effect on academic and administrative activities.

“People are working diligently to prepare our computer systems for the Year 2000 date change,” said John D. Henderson, who joined Wake Forest’s Information Systems staff in mid-1998 to manage the Y2K preparedness project on the university’s Reynolda Campus. “We’re keenly aware that the transition into a new millennium is one of the most challenging problems ever faced by the information technology, government, business and educational communities,” Henderson added.

“It’s been a long, incredibly complex process of identifying problems, making the fixes required, testing the systems, and putting them back to work,” Henderson explained.

As of now, the university’s “mission critical systems” are compliant, Henderson said. The changes needed to avoid Y2K problems, as best as reasonably possible, have been made with the student records system, the financial and human resources software, and other key systems.

Work will continue up to, through and beyond Jan. 1.

“No one, including the government, can say that no problems will occur, despite the best possible efforts,” Henderson said. “The federal government’s own Y2K Web sites stress that there are no guarantees with the Y2K problem.”

In addition to the university’s Year 2000 Compliance Task Force, a special Y2K Contingency Planning Task Force is busy now in case something still goes wrong. The task force is making certain that whatever happens, student records will be maintained, faculty and staff will be paid, and other essential services, including food service, will be maintained.

Part of the problem, Henderson explained, is that despite the university’s best efforts, it is hard to know exactly how well prepared everyone off campus will be when 2000 debuts. The compliance task force has surveyed hundreds of the university’s suppliers, ranging from the City of Winston-Salem’s water system to those who deliver food for campus dining areas. Many have responded that they are taking every precaution, but not all have replied to surveys, and few are willing to guarantee anything.

As part of its “just in case” effort, the university will have staff on duty throughout the Jan. 1 weekend, ready to react to problems that might arise. Extra staff will be on duty from several departments, including Information Systems, Facilities Management and University Police. The News Service will be prepared to distribute information as needed.

The university is establishing a communication plan to inform the university community if any schedule changes occur.

For instance, the university is setting up two phone lines to inform callers if staff work schedules and class schedules are on track or if they have been altered suddenly. Recorded messages will be posted on the lines starting Jan. 1. The local number to call is 758-2000. Those living outside the Winston-Salem area can call 877-273-9077 toll-free.

If schedule changes, indeed, occur, the university will also distribute information by voice mail and e-mail.

“Essentially, we want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for our faculty, staff and students to learn about unexpected delays or cancellations,” Henderson said.

The Info Central Tab on WIN will have a Y2K section that posts the phone numbers.

The numbers will also be distributed by other means, as well, including a mailing to all parents of Wake Forest students in November.

Meanwhile, Henderson encourages the community to visit the special Y2K section of WIN in the Forms and Documents Library to learn details about Reynolda Campus compliance and contingency efforts. In that section, Henderson has also compiled a list of “Y2K Personal and Family Preparedness Links.” The page provides links to Y2K information from the American Red Cross, TIAA-CREF, and various federal agencies.

Additional campus Y2K details can be found by visiting the university’s Web site, in particular the administration page, which includes a “Y2K Preparedness” link.

As the university begins its spring term in January, Henderson said, university staff will continue to be alert for Y2K problems that might show themselves as time goes on.

“Those who have been studying the Y2K issue for some time recognize that not all problems may be apparent on January 1,” Henderson explained. “It might take a while to note glitches that occur.”

“The university’s Y2K plan calls on us to be prepared beyond Jan. 1 and for months to come,” he said.

Categories: Media Advisory, University Announcement