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Network Outage Hits Western Michigan U on Last Day of Finals

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The last day of finals week wasn't a good one for students at Western Michigan University. Two failed routers that were meant to provide redundancy to each other created an "unprecedented computer network failure" at the campus, preventing many students from logging into the network, taking online exams or turning in last-minute assignments.

In Twitter posts and other communications shared on an alternative site by the university, the Provost's Office said it expected wireless internet service to be restored shortly after noon, April 25, on the same day it went down. However, according to reporting by student newspaper the Western Herald, repairs took longer than expected.

"Two of WMU's primary layer 2 network routers started failing around 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Because they are critical pieces of WMU's network, it gave the appearance that the entire network was down," explained Tom Wolf, the director of the Office of Information Technology, in the article. "It took several hours for WMU technicians to evaluate the entire network and determine that the issue resided in these two layer 2 network routers."

By 1 p.m. that same day, a support person from the router manufacturer had arrived on campus to work with OIT, and he "escalated the issue to his company's global support center." After working "diligently" with the vendor's support team for about 12 hours, OIT was able to get the network and all related systems and services back up — around 1:15 a.m. on the following day, Wolf said.

Even as the technical people raced to fix the networking problems, the Provost's Office reached out to the campus community with recommendations for how to handle the delays created by this "unprecedented computer network failure caused by equipment serviced by an outside vendor."

"We are asking faculty members to be flexible in administering their final assessments and to make reasonable accommodations for students affected by the outage," stated Jennifer Bott, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Students hampered by this technical problem should not be penalized for not completing exams or submitting assignments during the outage."

She added that the Office of the Registrar would extend the deadline for grade submission and access to OneDrive to give graduating students extra time for managing their online portfolios.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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