Every student knows Bradford. The “Persistent Agent” has been installed on 2,300 student computers in the last week. Without it, no computer can access Colgate’s wireless network.
At Saint Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), students were outraged when the same software was mandated on their campus two years ago. Student blogs and Facebook groups lashed out against the “mandatory spyware” they believed violated each student’s right to privacy.
SMCM students noted Bradford’s own marketing campaign which advertised the software’s capability to allow “IT personnel to efficiently address computers running prohibited or unlicensed applications while also searching for specific files.”
“We don’t have the interest, we don’t have the time, but we’ve always had the technology,” Colgate’s Chief Information Technology Officer David Gregory said about the “Big Brother” capabilities of the new software. However, “I can see where you are during the day all day long, if I wanted to,” which is a powerful tool for repairing Internet access issues, Gregory said.
Bradford is monitoring software that validates computer operating systems and anti-virus software to ensure a secure and fast Colgate network. Bradford Networks, which created the Persistent Agent, could not be reached for comment.
“I think it’s a bit creepy that [IT] can see whatever you are doing,” sophomore Katie Scribner said. “I think it’s an invasion of privacy,” Scribner added.
With regard to searching for specific files, “it’s not like we can go into finder and click through your machine,” Network & Systems Administrator Dom Rhodes said.
Students in Maryland also feared SMCM was beginning to crack down on Peer to Peer (P2P) programs such as LimeWire and Bittorent. According to Gregory, blocking file sharing programs is not a priority of the IT Department at Colgate. However, he would not “give any guarantees we won’t block [file sharing programs]” in the future.
Bradford came as part of the software and hardware overhaul to Colgate’s network this past summer.
“Access points have more than doubled,” Gregory said. In the next two years Gregory hopes to expand the school’s bandwidth five-fold. Currently, Colgate has more than double the bandwidth of comparable schools such as Hamilton College, even though outfitting the Campus costs almost 15 times more than schools near urban centers, Gregory said.
“The real purpose of Bradford and the whole wireless system was to respond to all the student complaints last year. We listened, the administration listened and we spent a million dollars upgrading this system,” Gregory said. “We want to make sure all the students have the best possible experience when they’re on the network and the only way to do that is to make sure all the traffic on the network is legitimate.”