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Cisco/SJSU: We Can't Hear You

Controversial project not discussed during college president's "fluency" address

The San Jose Mercury News recently followed up on our two-year-old coverage of the sweetheart deal between San Jose State University and Cisco involving the school’s Next Generation Technology Project. SJSU did not bid out the $28 million project, which cost more than the entire California State University system’s $22 million networking upgrade.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi (pictured) defended the decision, saying the school’s plan preceded CSU’s upgrade, and that time was of the essence. That was apparently the school’s final word on it.

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To review, our sources and those contacted by The Merc say Cisco and reseller Nexus IS essentially nudged SJSU IT aside as they designed the project and told SJSU what to buy. Faculty also had no input into the requirements phase of the project even though they would be using the new equipment.

The Merc found that the project is over budget and behind schedule, and is facing backlash from faculty and IT for the way it was awarded, funded, crafted and implemented. The Merc reports that some faculty refuse to use the $400 Cisco video phones on their desks, equipment’s been stolen, and only five of the 51 smart classrooms are completed two-and-a-half years after Cisco gear hit the SJSU delivery docks.

The Merc also presented a laundry list of the coziness between President Qayoumi and Cisco and CEO John Chambers.

This week, President Qayoumi spoke before reporters hosted at SJSU during Cisco’s Global Editors Conference. His talk was preceded by a video of SJSU faculty and staff extolling the virtues of Cisco “Internet of Everything” technologies in use at the school, all of which make up the NGTP.

But President Qayoumi’s talk was not about SJSU’s NGTP, nor did he even mention it. It was a philosophical treatise, in very general terms, on how “technological fluency” is becoming a key requirement in education and society.

He took no questions after his address. He also declined requests for interviews.

Dr. Julia Curry-Rodriguez, assistant professor of Mexican-American Studies at SJSU and one of the faculty advocates in the IoE/NGTP video, said that while she and other faculty were not involved in the requirements process of the NGTP she was nonetheless pleased with it.

“I got this (lecture capture) room by serendipity,” Curry-Rodriguez said, adding she received instruction on it two days before using it for her class.

Perhaps Curry-Rodriguez lucked out. Perhaps the entire NGTP project will eventually win over more SJSU faculty, staff and IT personnel.

But the way it came about most likely will not. In the case of SJSU’s Next Generation Technology Project, technological fluency should include technological transparency. The students, faculty and IT staff – the project’s constituents – should have been in on the conversation.

And with only five of 51 classrooms equipped, NGTP is incoherent.

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