BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The D’Youville University community has been without Wi-Fi and network services for nearly a month, and students and staff are voicing their frustrations with the school’s handling of the situation.
According to the faculty union president and several students, the outage has not only affected DYU’s Wi-Fi, but also its student portal, called Self-Service, and the school’s learning management system, Canvas. The loss of access has created hardships for students, affecting their ability to access coursework and even pay rent because tuition refunds have been delayed.
D’Youville officials did not respond to numerous requests for comment this week, but the school did address the situation in emails to students obtained by News 4, at one point saying they “sincerely apologize for any burden this has caused.”
Faculty union president Brandon Absher, a philosophy professor, told News 4 about the issues faculty members are experiencing.
“Faculty have been largely frustrated with the nature of communication, what we perceive as its lack of accuracy, and (D’Youville’s) unwillingness to make us partners in this,” Absher said on behalf of the union.
As a philosophy professor, Absher was able to do more traditional “chalk and talk” lessons, but he acknowledged that departments like nursing or biology may not have been so fortunate, as they rely more heavily on network use.
“Technology is so integrated into the course work, it’s even affected the ‘on-ground’ courses,” Absher said.
With the loss of Canvas, students who learn virtually were without access to their coursework while unable to access the network.
“If there is any risk to personal information of faculty or students, that should be disclosed and they should be offered the resources to secure their information or identity,” Absher said.
Alerts of a “network outage”
The school sent messages to students from its “DYU Alert!” system regarding the Wi-Fi issues, which were provided to News 4.
One message announced that classes were canceled on Feb. 9 due to a “network outage.” The campus was not closed, but all activities requiring network connectivity were also canceled. University administration said they anticipated the Wi-Fi to be restored over that weekend, and announced classes would resume on Feb. 13.
In efforts to remedy the situation, students said D’Youville set up a temporary network that allowed students protected access to the school’s guest Wi-Fi, which required an additional password. A message sent by the university’s alert system on Feb. 12 said the Wi-Fi had been restored, but students told News 4 the Wi-Fi was still not fully operational. Alex Patkalitsky, a grad student, said he was out with COVID when the network was down and was unable to access the system from home.
Multiple students who spoke with News 4 on campus Tuesday said they were able to access the network, though they were aware of classmates who were still struggling to connect. Patkalitsky added that Canvas is now back online, but Self-Service remains down, meaning students can’t pay bills to the school or check their schedules to see if one of their classes has been canceled.
“It’s still weird though,” he said. “We have no Ethernet and only some people can get on.”
Tuition refund issues
News 4 was provided a message sent Monday by D’Youville Financial Aid regarding an inquiry about tuition refund assistance, which in part said, “As of today, D’Youville continues to have a web services outage that is causing our systems to be inaccessible.”
Some students expressed the hardships that loss of these refunds caused, hurting their ability to pay for utilities, food, and particularly housing, given that rent for many students was due March 1.
Another email, from D’Youville Student Accounts, addressed these refunds.
“We are aware that our recent network outages have delayed the processing of Spring semester refunds. As an update, we were able to begin processing student refunds this past Friday February 24. We anticipate all Spring semester refunds outstanding will be processed by Tuesday March 7,” the email said. “We understand that many students are depending on the receipt of refunds for their living expenses and sincerely apologize for any burden this has caused. We greatly appreciate student’s patience as we work through the processing backlog.”
The email continued, telling students in an urgent need for their refund to reply to the email for their account to receive prioritization.
Additionally, students who pay tuition through the Self-Service portal said they’ve been unsuccessful in doing so with the portal down, with some students saying they are now unsure which of their payments have gone through and how much they currently owe in tuition due to the outage.
Some students did not wish to go on record regarding the network outage, fearing retaliation from the school, such as meetings with professors regarding behavior, or even program dismissal.
D’Youville student Carleta Fukua said some of her professors have been understanding and given extensions on assignments, but some have not been so forgiving. She also said Canvas has been “popping in and out,” making it difficult to submit work through the site.
One senior said all of her professors have been very understanding, but were not aware of the severity of the situation at first. She said it has created issues unique to seniors in particular, such as finishing their final research projects and registering for graduation.
“We graduate in May and can’t apply now,” she said.