Computer science at USC is dying, and half of it is ITS’s fault. ITS is Information Technology Services here at the University of Southern California. I don’t know their history, but what I do know is:

  • They are one of the most crucial organizations at USC.
  • They manage USC Wireless, the on-campus 802.11g wireless network.
  • They manage the domain name and website.
  • They are highly restrictive and severely stifle innovation on a regular basis.
  • They move at a glacial pace. That is, extremely slowly and inefficiently.

An explanation of my complaints follows… now that I’ve written it out, I’m not so angry. But best to keep this online so I can record for memory’s sake how I felt at the time (though maybe not anymore).

First, ITS is crucial to USC students, faculty, and the overall learning experience. According to their own website, they provide “Computing, Networking and Data Storage”– in other words, everyone uses ITS. What student doesn’t in some way use computing resources?

ITS manages USC Wireless. I personally don’t have much of a problem with it, and I like their new logon scheme. I think it serves the community well. One thing I should note, though, is that many students complain of wireless’s limited coverage inside academic buildings. I’ve noticed this myself– even in the newest engineering building, RTH, there is a lack of wireless access in the classroom where I had my EE 201L lectures.

Let’s get to the heart of my complaint. For over a year, Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), the computer science honor society, has been trying to make a decent website. It’s ridiculous how hard it is to get the resources to do this, let alone actually do it. If you were in the real world, you’d get a web host, and you’d be done. Not so with USC. We have to use servers originally for different purposes, we get weird URLs with tildes (~), we get relegated to subdomains like www-scf and pollux, there is no PHP, no MySQL… in fact there is no support for scripting of any kind. Supposedly they can allow us to make a website… after about 6 months, we’re still dead. They’re insanely slow and they probably don’t know what they’re doing.

Why don’t we just buy our own server? We tried that, too. Trevor Johns (perhaps the best computer science student here) thought we could get a USC subdomain and point it at his TextDrive hosting account. He thought it would just take a few business days and we’d be off and running. Not so! “ITS has decided they are unwilling to create a subdomain pointing to a non-USC server.”

Sure, I understand there are security concerns, but we can get this approved by everyone. This is a really important website for building the computer science community at USC. There is a severe lack of any website that does anything similar to what we’re trying to make here. So why is ITS being so stubborn? We have faculty advisors, good security policies, etc. It seems as though ITS is not even willing to give us a chance.

If anyone at ITS happens to read this, I would like to talk with you. If you’re associated with ITS in some way or can pass along feedback such that they would actually consider it, I encourage you to do so.

6 Responses to “USC ITS Sucks”

  1. Tom says:

    I don’t think it is unreasonable for ITS to refuse to point a subdomain to a server totally out of their control and not on the USC network. However, they really do need to offer better hosting options for students and student organizations.

  2. Luke says:

    I worked in Rose-Hulman’s counterpart for a few years and they had similar problems arise. After some cajoling and enough student pressure (basically someone said, yes this is possible all you have to do is…) and there was actual need for access to a full web presense for more than the administrative web folks.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is that you need to present a proposal of some sort to the IT heads and get them to make progress in giving student groups access to “real” web tools. Administrative types love good proposals so if you play to their wishes you can speed up what you want. Plus, by submitting a proposal you have proof that as a student group you did everything in your power to solve the problem. The next step is to make the administration out to be totally evil in whatever media is available…this tends to cause someone higher up to pay attention and get the wheels rolling. (Unless they decide to go after you instead of make the change, but I’ve never had to deal with that.)

  3. […] sounds like some of the opposition I’ve experienced here at USC. In particular, there is currently no overarching dominant forum […]

  4. TJ says:

    Luke is right. If you present a clear, professionally written case, get a bunch of students on board with you, real change could happen. I vaguely remember hearing that we’re supposed to be the 8th most wired campus in the country or something. Trojans really like being at the top of lists, you know, so if you talk ominously about how we might drop lower under current ITS policy, that might get people interested.

  5. Iain Wright says:

    I’m having some problems getting a blogging engine up for my department here at USC. We are unable to connect to offsite MySQL databases from a database hosted on the cwis server…I created a ticket with them, however the chances of me actually getting someone who knows anything to call me back seems close to nil. Is your issue still occurring? If so maybe we can keep in touch regarding the issue, i can get my department among other’s at USC to help promote change.


    Iain Wright
    USC GCRC Informatics

  6. Brenden says:

    USC ITS blows. The end.

    Suck it ITS.

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