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Buggin' Out

November 19, 1999

Jessie Morgan

Tulane's Year 2000 Project has spent the last year exterminating the Y2K bug throughout the university. Although there is no way to be absolutely certain, all of Tulane's computer-based systems should be able to recognize the critical difference between the years 2000 and 1900, says Jim Bonewald, director of university relations and risk management at the Year 2000 Project office.

Bonewald and the 35 staff members in the office, which is located on the Elmwood campus, began addressing Tulane's Y2K compliance last year. The first step was to inventory the 13,400 products on Tulane's campus that could be affected. This included everything from the personal computers in offices and computer labs to computerized scientific equipment. The office then contacted the manufacturers to determine the compliance of all equipment.

"Out of Tulane's inventory, only about 11 percent were found to be non-compliant," says Bonewald. "It was like finding the needle in the haystack."

The second step was to ensure that companies doing business with Tulane had resolved their own compliance issues. Tulane sent a letter to each of its 12,000 business partners-including vendors, insurers and accrediting agencies-requesting information on how each were addressing Y2K issues. The part of the Y2K project that was perhaps most familiar to employees was the evaluation of equipment conducted by all Tulane departments.

In May, 95 percent of the departments signed off as compliant. Other, more complex computer systems, such as those in Technology Infrastructure Services, still require some testing and have a sign-off deadline of late November.

This fall, the focus shifted to evaluating whether applications on the computers will still work and interact with each other in 2000. According to Bonewald, it took a month to identify the university?s mainframe and departmentally specific applications. It is important to view Y2K compliance as an ongoing goal, says Bonewald. Those departments that signed off in May as compliant should remember that any new applications, software or hardware purchased since that time could be non-compliant. The final step is to plan for the worst.

"What we're moving into now is contingency planning," says Bonewald, who offers the following example. "This is the part where we sit down with the registrar's office and ask, how will you manually register students for a new semester?"

The project office is also working with all major infrastructure departments at Tulane to ensure they are prepared to handle whatever may come. This type of contingency planning has long-term benefits for Tulane, says Bonewald.

"Planning for Y2K is going to be helpful in terms of hurricanes and other types of disasters. It's a good exercise for them to be prepared," he says. He has similar advice for individuals regarding their Y2K readiness. "It's important to take precautions. I tell people, well, it's hurricane season. You normally have hurricane-type preparations to last yourself a week if we lose power, so just carry those over through the millennium," he says.

Speaking as a Y2K expert, Bonewald is confident that life will go on normally in 2000 and beyond. "I've switched back and forth, from being completely afraid to being completely assured, never knowing what to believe," he says. "You've got to be careful about what you read. Panic and fear of the unknown is really the danger, not computer systems."

More information on Tulane's Y2K efforts is available at http://www.tmc.tulane.edu/Y2K, or call the Y2K Hotline at 818-1463. Monthly roundtable discussion panels concerning Y2K issues are held on the downtown and uptown campuses.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu