When Richmond made ClearPass OnGuard installation mandatory in February 2014, students' computers experienced issues ranging from slow internet connection to complete freezing of programs. Two years and many updates later, the software isn't stirring the student uproar it once did.
ClearPass is Richmond's tool for ensuring that its Wi-Fi is used only by members of the university community. The software serves other functions, but help desk manager Scott Tilghman stressed ClearPass's role as a gatekeeper, specifically as a means to keep out "evil."
"I would like to think that 80 percent of the people who drive through campus would use the internet service, if it was free, to check email and browse the web to find a restaurant," Tilghman said. "But you can't take into account what the other 20 percent is going to do."
Though ClearPass may be in the business of warding off evil, for the most part students no longer see the software itself as evil.
"ClearPass has definitely gotten better," Tilghman said. "We don't hear a lot about it." This is a stark contrast to the 596 students who asked for ClearPass help in its first year, The Collegian reported in February 2014.
Andrea Celleri is a student worker at the help desk and said students — mostly freshman — usually only needed help at the beginning of the year.
"It's not the program's fault," Celleri said. "People don't know how to install it."
Sophomore Rachel Bringewatt was one of those freshmen last year, but said she hardly noticed the program was there anymore. Though she frequented the help desk after first installing the program last year, she hasn't had any problems this year.
The only common issue Tilghman cited has been the delay some computers have had after a student returns to campus after a break. He said the help desk got some calls about delays, but after a few seconds students could usually get onto the internet as successfully as before they had left.
"I went off campus once and when I came back it didn't work, but I just restarted it and it started working again," sophomore Jane Schmidt said. Neither Schmidt nor Tilghman saw this as a significant issue or pitfall of ClearPass.
Aside from performance updates made by the company that created the software, ClearPass hasn't changed, Tilghman said. This includes ClearPass' disregard for student email content. Tilghman adamantly refuted the rumor that the university investigates the data passed between network users.
Tilghman said the Information Services department did not have the interest, the man power or the capabilities to view what people do on the network.
"We want to make sure that you get on the network, you can do what you need to do and that your computer is safe while it's on our network," Tilghman said. "We would not do anything unless we were given a subpoena to do it."
Though the Big Brother rumors haven't died, for students like Bringewatt and Schmidt, ClearPass has finally assumed the background role its creators intended it to perform. Their relative apathy toward the program suggests a step forward for ClearPass.
"ClearPass is a great thing," Tilghman said. "We want to make sure you're as safe to everyone else as we need you to be."
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