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July 23, 1998

PC Center closing July 31; CIS shifting staff positions

Starting Aug. 1, Pitt fac- ulty, staff and students who buy computer products through Pitt will shop through an Internet-based "e-Store," open 24 hours a day.

The online service will replace the PC Center in Bellefield Hall, which will close July 31. The center has stopped taking new orders but will continue to fill back orders.

The PC Center's five staff employees will lose their jobs. Pitt's Human Resources office is working with the staff to place them in comparably paying jobs in CIS or elsewhere in the University, said Jinx Walton, director of CIS support services.

According to Pitt's administration, the e-Store will offer lower prices than the PC Center, while ensuring security of electronic transactions and communications between buyers and the online service. Purchases will be delivered directly to customers' offices, dorms and homes rather than to the PC Center or other central locations on campus.

In a separate move, Computing and Information Services (CIS) central and business offices were reorganized July 8.

Of the 13.5 previous, full-time equivalent positions in the CIS central administration (not counting the job of CIS director, currently vacant), all but three have been reassigned among other CIS units or eliminated.

The changes were announced by Robert F. Pack, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management and interim head of CIS. Pack assumed responsibility for CIS in January, when Pitt announced that long-time director Paul Stieman would resign April 30.

Pack's boss, Provost James Maher, asked him to review CIS operations with the goal of improving efficiency and serving the University community's changing needs for information technology.

In a July 8 memo to CIS staff, Pack said the administrative reorganization will place CIS business and administrative activities "within the operating units and closer to the people who manage projects and operations….This restructuring will lead to streamlined processes and permit the reallocation of resources to direct service functions. The restructuring will result in new roles for several people and, unfortunately, the elimination of several positions." "The intent [of the reorganization] is one of reinvestment, not cost-cutting," Pack told the University Senate budget policies committee this month.

It also is consistent with Provost Maher's announcement last year that job cuts in the Provost's area will be made, whenever possible, in administrative units and not by eliminating direct service jobs, Pack told the committee.

In a July 16 memo describing the new University of Pittsburgh e-Store, Pack said the online service will provide the same services previously available through the PC Center but with a wider variety of products and more competitive pricing.

"The PC Center was established in 1986 to offer educational discounts on computer products to the University community, but changes in the PC market have significantly reduced the available discounts and make it impossible for the PC Center to recover its costs and still offer competitive pricing," he wrote.

The e-Store resulted from an agreement between Pitt and NECX, an online site that offers computer products and networking equipment from some 1,100 manufacturers. The PC Center worked with about 20 manufacturers, according to Walton of CIS.

"We are working on an automated ordering process for departments. Until this is in place, departments will be able to order products available through the e-Store using standard procedures for PRISM or purchase orders," Pack wrote in his July 16 memo to deans, directors and department chairs.

Postcards describing how individuals can access the e-Store will be sent to the University community this week or early next week, Walton said.

— Bruce Steele

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