By: Alex Scheib
On Sunday, August 27th at 1:45 PM, on the eve of the first day of classes, the University of Michigan made the conscious decision to shut off the internet on all three campuses, Dearborn, Flint, and Ann Arbor. In the face of what an email sent to the university population describes as a “significant security concern”, they turned off Wi-Fi, and many of the major portals that students need in order to conduct school work, including Canvas. The most pressing issue, however, is the shutdown of a platform called “wolverine access”. Wolverine access is an online database that students depend on to select classes, access course schedules, manage campus finances, and view transcripts. All of a sudden, students found they were not able to make timely tuition payments, or see the location and time of their classes for the following morning. Seeing as it is the first week of classes, many students attempted to log in to wolverine access to look up the details of the classes they selected in April of last year. Without it, they have no idea what rooms and buildings their classes are in or when they take place. U-M Information and Technology Services (ITS) released a guide of course schedules & locations this morning, but you can’t even see what classes you’re registered for without wolverine access or having written it down in advance.
If you did manage to get to class this morning, you were likely met with an unprepared professor, who was merely planning to project the syllabus on the board, but couldn’t access any of their files saved to google drive, because there is no Wi-Fi on campus. Furthermore, students who live in dorms don’t have Wi-Fi or internet service and are being pushed to local coffee shops, taking walks off campus to get connection, and visiting friends in off-campus housing to do work. One of our writers who lives on campus describes the wifi outage as “more jarring than it should have been” and blames this extreme reaction on “our priorities, and the ways in which we allow work to become all consuming.” While class work is fairly low demand because it’s only the first day of classes, it’s challenging not to make technology our number one priority right now. I find myself checking my emails, refreshing wolverine access because I have no clue what classes I have tomorrow, and reading any social media updates on the outage constantly.
Let’s face it, our generation is obsessed with technology and our phones, but some of it is at no fault to our own. Post-COVID, school is almost entirely digital and there’s an app for everything. We check what’s for breakfast on the dining hall app, look for our schedules on wolverine access, find our textbooks online, complete homework assignments on google drive, and submit them via Canvas. We do this because being digital is just easier. Instead of having to file through paper records, we can type in search criteria, and find our answers instantaneously. We can learn from experts across the world by merely clicking a link. In this day and age it’s almost a disadvantage to not use technology and grant students access to all of this knowledge.
However, as is evident from the internet blackout on campus, it seems we put too much information on the internet. If the University of Michigan were to get hacked, medical records, financial information, and social security data for every single employee of the university could be exposed. This impacts way more than just the students on campus. The University of Michigan was just ranked #27 on Forbes list of top employers in 2023 with 52,258 employees. In the face of all of this, of course turning off the Wi-Fi makes sense. Yet, why is it so hard to live off the grid? Maybe take some of this time you would’ve spent on your phone, and consider it.