Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 4, Sept. 2005
May you live in interesting times!
It has been an interesting year. Certainly for those who are involved in state government or depend upon state appropriations, it has been a complicated and challenging time. And yes, it has been an interesting time to be involved with MOREnet, as Chair of the Missouri Education and Research Consortium (MERC), the membership organization of higher education MOREnet users, and as one of two higher education representatives on the MOREnet Council, the council that oversees MOREnet.
Good Things Have Happened. It is important to understand that as many good things happened in the past year as bad. With support from MERC and urging from state officials to develop accountability measures for all state-supported programs, MOREnet undertook a comprehensive study that attempted to quantify the value of the services that it provides to its users. Conducted by the University of Missouri Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, the study interviewed higher education users and stakeholders across the state to determine the value proposition of a state-supported telecommunications network. The results were very gratifying, as they described in great detail the value of MOREnet services to its users. Particularly interesting was the finding that it was not connectivity alone that users valued, but even more the synergy created by MOREnet among all institutions of higher education in the state, as well as all K-12 schools and public libraries. Connecting all of these entities together in a common and universal network makes possible collaboration and cost sharing that could simply not be achieved any other way. Users pointed out that MOBIUS, a statewide library system for all of higher education in the state, would not be possible without the MOREnet backbone.
Additionally, MOREnet conducted a user satisfaction survey among all of its user groups, and the results were similarly and overwhelming positive. Quantitative and verbatim responses are testimony to the high quality of reliable services provided to its users.
Not-So-Good Things Also Happened. Of course, this was also a tough year for MOREnet, and an even tougher one for MOBIUS. State appropriations for MOREnet were cut by $4.4 million, or 30 percent of its appropriation to support the statewide network. Funding for MOBIUS, which had been a very successful state and institutional partnership, was eliminated from the state budget.
The good news even in this was that MOREnet users were sufficiently satisfied with its services that each of its three major constituents—colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and public libraries—agreed to increase the fees that they paid to MOREnet to cover the funding shortfall. With a combination of reductions in MOREnet operating expenses and renegotiated contracts for telecommunications services, the impact on higher education users was reduced to a more manageable level—at least for this coming year.
So, the good news is that MOREnet has survived a very difficult and pivotal year intact, and providing valued services to constituents throughout Missouri. There remain substantial challenges as the state continues to look at ways to reorganize its resources, but MOREnet continues to provide leadership in the provision of telecommunications to important state constituents that cannot be ignored.
The problem is that we live in interesting times. There is more than a bit of irony in the fact that in some cultures the invocation, “May you live in interesting times!” is not likely to be said to those one wishes well.
Vice Chancellor for Education and Technology, Metropolitan Community Colleges, Kansas City, Mo.
Past Chair, MERC Board of Directors
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