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R.I.P. WebSIMS

Brooklyn College Welcomes CUNYfirst

BY RYAN SIT|

Welcome to CUNYfirst! (Qchelpdesk.wordpres.com)
Welcome to CUNYfirst! (Qchelpdesk.wordpres.com)

Brooklyn College is no longer an island.

And neither are the other schools under CUNY’s umbrella.

CUNY’s 24 campuses have long operated like satellite colleges, linked by name and little else. CUNYfirst, an initiative launched at Brooklyn College this month, aims at uniting the CUNY campus system.

CUNYfirst, which stands for “Fully Integrated Resources and Service Tool,” has already phased out WebSIMS at Brooklyn College, in addition to its aging counterparts like eSIMS and CUPS on other campuses.

All the services previously performed on WebSIMS will now be done on CUNYfirst, including registration, filing for graduation, and bill management. However, faculty and staff will also have CUNYfirst accounts to access HR and academic resources.

So what’s the difference? Why does it matter?

“First of all, we don’t use social security numbers anymore,” said Mark Gold, the CUNYfirst manager at Brooklyn College. “It’s a big security hole. People should not be walking around saying their social security numbers out loud.

“We don’t have to deal with it at all anymore because your ‘EMPLID’ is like your social security number: it’s your unique identifier.

“When students claim [register] their CUNYfirst account, they are issued an ‘EMPLID.’ The Portal has already been modified to include EMPLIDs on the ‘My Info’ page.

Life will be much smoother for transfer students, said Gold. Instead of dealing with the bureaucracy between Kingsborough and Brooklyn College, or the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Hunter, a student’s entire CUNY career will be stored in CUNYfirst.

Gold said the other major improvement from old systems to the new one is that “there is only one you.”

Previously, if somebody was a professor at Hunter and a student at Brooklyn College, that would mean they needed to maintain two different accounts on two different systems. The same goes for staff members who are also graduate students, or faculty who enroll in night classes, etc.

“In the old days, that was multiple records,” Gold explained. “That was a pain in the neck for us.”

“So for transfer students, for student that are taking courses elsewhere, it’s all in one system now.”

Transferring between CUNY schools and wading through credit evaluations has long been a blight on students.  Rather than operate as one university with universal credit approval and online systems like Brooklyn College’s Portal or BlackBoard, each campus has functioned with relative autonomy and tailored their procedures to their unique needs.

Uniformity among all CUNY campuses allows for continuity for transfer students. Transfer students won’t have to worry about learning a new system to work with.

But, as with all initiatives—especially technological ones—there are a couple of kinks to work out.

Brooklyn College’s introduction to CUNYfirst is part of the third trial wave of implementation. Hunter, New York City College of Technology, the College of Staten Island, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College are included in the third wave. Kingsborough and Queens College were among the original campuses for the first wave of the system’s introduction.

The fourth and final wave is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2014, Gold said, and will include Baruch, the Graduate Center, City College, and the Graduate School for Journalism.

Gold said that as of April 12, about 25 percent of Brooklyn College students had claimed their ID’s, a percentage that lags behind the other schools in the third wave.

Phasing in CUNYfirst (Cuny.edu)
Phasing in CUNYfirst (Cuny.edu)

To mitigate delays and complications, Gold urged students, faculty, and staff, to claim their ID’s as soon as possible.

Although the system is expected to streamline actions in the future, new transfer students are not seeing the benefit now, Gold said.

“As a Brooklyn College student, I’m not entirely psyched about it,” said Cristina Cosme in front of Boylan Hall, where she and other volunteers were posted up alerting students of the new service.

Cosme, a junior and accounting major, said that one problem some students have encountered, including herself, is that the new service often lists students at a different school. “I was Kingsborough,” she said.

“I think the first semester is gonna be little bumpy,” Cosme said, “but that goes for everything new.”

Gold offered a roundabout solution for students and faculty whose CUNYfirst ID has them registered at a different school. First, they should change their address; Cosme suggested just altering the address by one number. The system will recalibrate and the user can then correct their address.

“Once they fix the quirks, I think everything’s going to be alright,” Cosme said.

Gold said the incorrect school banner on people’s CUNYfirst page is relatively insignificant, but warned people to contact IT immediately if personal information, not the school banner, was incorrect.

Cosme said that WebSIMS was somewhat advanced for CUNY, and added that the new service, in some respects, is a technological step back. But that’s not the case for every school.

Gold reported that the Bronx’s Lehman College was technologically lagging behind every other campus and may have been registering the old fashion way—with paper ballots—until CUNYfirst came to the Bronx in the first wave.  But paper ballots or not, CUNYfirst is definitely a step in the right direction.

For help in using and navigating the service check out the CUNYfirst training page via the Brooklyn College website for in-depth reference guides, including a “Self Service” step-by-step powerpoint lesson and a “Virtual Tour” guided video.  The school is also offering personalized tutorials now through the end of the semester.

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