Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1999
U.Va. to host public forum with alumni about the future of the Internet age
Former dean Raymond J. Nelson receives U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Award
U.Va.'s foster families fill the breach for children in need

Conference explores ways to internationalize universities

Winston, Weaver 'rapt' up Film Festival
Sigourney Weaver on motherhood and other roles
Sharing digital resources to help teachers use technology in class
Hot Links - President's Office
Film, panelists explore 'digital divide' in computer access
After Hours - arborist Jerry Brown
U.Va. well on its way to ringing in the Year 2000 without a systems glitch
Off the Shelf - recently published books
Digital prints on display Nov. 1-29
CEO of Pew Trusts to give talk Nov. 3

U.Va. well on its way to ringing in the Year 2000 without a systems glitch Departmental Y2K contingency plans due Nov. 15

By Rebecca Arrington

All computer systems at the University are 100 percent compliant for "mission-critical operations" in the Year 2000, according to Chip German, director of ITC policy and planning. This includes U.Va.'s Health System, which completed its compliance testing last month, said Y2K Project Manager Martha Stearns of Medical Center Computing.

Year 2000 computer problems, which the University has been addressing since 1996, could affect any software or hardware system that assumes that years are represented with only two digits. Programs could malfunction if they interpret "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. Systems that could be affected include everything from PCs, to elevators, to payroll programs, to machines that administer medicine or radiation to patients.

At U.Va, all systems unable to correctly process dates beyond Dec. 31, 1999, have been fixed, upgraded or replaced, German said. On behalf of the University, President John T. Casteen III will file a Year 2000 compliance report with the state by the end of the month, German said.

Next on their agenda, Y2K teams are preparing University-wide contingency plans at the "mission-critical" or essential-services level. Questions about hypothetical situations are being posed, such as: How would U.Va. provide services if a computer system failed or if there was no heat or water? Internally, departments that dispense critical services are developing plans for providing these services manually in the event of system failure. With external problems that could affect the University, such as a loss of electricity, "We would follow plans much the same as are already in place for disaster drills, which we coordinate with the city and county," German said.

Every department or unit within the University is expected to have current contingency plans and disaster recovery plans that are appropriate for its work and its employees, Stearns said. Written confirmation of compliance with this facet of Y2K readiness must be submitted to her by Nov. 15.

The U.Va. Audit Department will be verifying the presence of these plans and procedures with units and departments during upcoming visits. Questions on this matter should be directed to Susan Kirby in the Audit Department at sem3m@virginia.edu, or Stearns at mrs4n@virginia.edu.

Should emergencies arise, Y2K committees are considering ways to relay information to employees if normal modes of communication, such as phone service or TV links, are not available. Departments should be developing such procedures, too, German said. Facilities Management has already done this, and ITC is working out the final details for its employees, he noted.

On the Health System side, Stearns said the hospital is well prepared in the event of an emergency. Employees here are required to review mandatory training procedures annually, which include the Health System's emergency plan. If employees are unable to contact their departments on Jan. 1, 2000, that should cue them to report to work, as the Health System would be in emergency plan mode, she said. Stearns also noted that U.Va.'s hospital is coordinating efforts with 10 other hospitals in the region to establish radio communication links in the event of power or service outages.

At the nonessential-services level, departments are planning how they would conduct business if things they depend on, like computing networks, utilities or delivery of supplies, aren't available, German said. And 100 percent compliance at the mission-critical level doesn't mean that every PC at U.Va. is Y2K compliant, he added. Departments need to assess their systems and equipment, deemed non-essential, to ensure that they won't be at risk of losing data or destroying research. Interim Vice President and Chief Information Officer Bob Reynolds and Vice President for Research and Public Service Gene Block are leading efforts in coordinating information to departments and units.

German estimates that about a third of ITC's 200 employees will be working on New Year's Eve to monitor systems, as will a number of Facilities Management and other essential U.Va. and Health System employees.

U.Va. has spent $9.9 million to fund Y2K compliance needs. The total, which includes the Health System, is much lower than the initial estimate of $20 million, projected by PricewaterhouseCoopers. German attributes this to "the good work done initially on systems built at U.Va., which needed very little adjustment to make them compliant," and to departments deferring certain projects to free up staff to work on Y2K matters. "We did the job largely internally instead of hiring outside contractors," he said.

When asked if he thought concerns about Y2K are overblown, German said, "There's no doubt in my mind that there are individuals stoking people's fears. On the other hand, there was and is a lot of hard work that needed to be done to address this issue. Somewhere between apathy and paranoia is the right place to be in, and it's the position the University has struck.

For employees concerned with how other aspects of Y2K may affect them -- such as banking or Social Security -- German suggests contacting that particular agency for details. "Laws were passed requiring entities to disclose their Y2K compliance." In adhering to this dictate, businesses and agencies won't be held accountable for any unforeseen Y2K problems. "So, they're telling the truth," he said.


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