Dec. 10, 1999-Jan. 13, 2000
IN THIS ISSUE
Alumnus Frank Batten Sr. gives $60 million to Darden entrepreneurial institute
Policy changed to match U.Va. employees' free speech rights
In age of narrow specialization, a writer who does it all

Garrett to receive $10,000 Aiken Taylor Award for his poetry

Exhibit explores 300 years of American views on apocalypse
Hot Links -- Governmental Relations
In Memoriam
Y2K workers gear up, but expect a quiet night
U.Va. is ready for Y2K -- are you?
U.Va. gets $1 million IBM grant to develop e-business technologies
NEH challenge grant will boost E-text Center endowment
Legislative forum to be held Jan. 7
Entrepreneurial spirit continues to feed Frank Batten's success
TOP NEWS

Y2K workers gear up, but expect a quiet night

By Dan Heuchert

while the rest of the world is out celebrating the Big Two-Triple-0 on New Year's Eve, a cadre of dedicated technology, health and safety professionals will be posted around Grounds, awaiting any sign of the dreaded "Y2K bug." "I expect it to be the most boring night I've spent in a long time," said Don Reynard, director of applications and data services for the University's Information Technology and Communication department (ITC) and one of many U.Va. employees who will be spending the New Year's Eve holiday on Grounds. "I hope there's a good bowl game on TV."

The turn of the millennium has prompted some to fear the end of the world as we know it; apocalyptic rumors, trouble-seeking media reports and made-for-TV movies have added fuel to the fire. While the University will err on the side of caution and require additional staffing in key areas, those who have worked most closely with the Y2K compliance effort expect few, if any, glitches.

"I feel very good" about being prepared, said Martha Stearns, the University's year 2000 project manager. "We've been working on it since 1996."

Her biggest concerns right now, she said, are public panic and sensationalistic media reports. When someone runs a car into a power-line pole or an ATM goes on the fritz shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, people may quickly make a mental leap to blaming it on the Y2K bug -- when, in fact, those things can happen anytime, she pointed out.

Stearns is confident that the University is ready, but admits that she can't be quite as sure about outside entities that could affect the University's operations. Representatives have visited many of the University's top vendors to check their Y2K preparations and have stockpiled some supplies.

"In reality, you've got big companies who don't want to be sued, and have worked really hard because preventing problems is cheaper than getting sued," Stearns said.

Fuel tanks for the University's auxiliary generators have been or will be topped off before Dec. 31, and a 3,000-gallon diesel fuel tanker will we stationed on Grounds Dec. 31, and won't be released until the all-clear is given, said Scott Martin, utility systems analyst at Facilities Management.

Despite three years of preparations, there will be many employees on the clock at midnight and in the hours thereafter just to make sure everything is running well.

The first priority will be the Medical Center, where the delivery of patient care must remain seamless. The hospital's emergency command center will be activated, and many of those who work with its computers and patient care equipment will be on site. Care providers will be staffed at normal levels, but there will be many people on call if greater needs arise, Stearns said.

The state is requiring the hospital to report any Y2K-related problems every six hours through Jan. 4, while the rest of the University must report in three times a day for the first week, Stearns said.

University Police Chief Mike Sheffield will be working the overnight shift with an extra contingent of his charges. He has cancelled all leave time between 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3 -- just in case.

"What better group of people is there to be here with over the holiday than police officers?" he said. "I think most of them are professional enough to understand. We will look at things to try to do for them."

Another locus of activity will be ITC, where many staffers will be checking the computing and communications systems from their offices, while others will conduct tests from home.

Y2K problems are "pretty much a non-issue" for the academic side, Reynard said. Students will be out of town and most employees will be off until Jan. 4. The payroll will be run before the end of December, and demand for the ISIS student registration system is expected to be low. And with most employees on holiday leave, there won't be much need for other administrative functions, like the purchasing system. There has been some talk among ITC employees about ordering pizza and other ways to mark the coming of the new year, Reynard said, but most people hope to come in, run the required tests and get back home.

Facilities Management plans to have about 75 to 100 extra workers on hand New Year's Eve, many of whom will be ready to address any concerns at the hospital. The department has done extensive testing over the past year or so, Martin said, including evaluations of elevators and fire systems. They expect few, if any, problems.

Some workers will patrol Grounds, looking for problems, while others will be in the Leake Building's systems control center, which can monitor systems in 100 University buildings.

Martin hasn't heard any grumbling from those assigned to work overnight New Year's Eve. On the contrary, most volunteered, he said.

"The people who do these things, they get charged up and take a lot of pride in what they're doing," he said.


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