Archway Failure: A Q&A with Dean Breslin

Following the crash of the Archway on the evening of Wednesday, April 11, I got in touch with Dean Lisa Breslin via email to find out what caused the Archway to fail and what is being done to prevent this in the future. The following Q&A consists of my questions and her responses, and are published with her permission.

What actually caused the Archway to fail? Was it too many people trying to access the Archway, a problem with the server, or something else?

Dean Breslin: Thankfully, in more than 8 years, Archway has not ever crashed for this length of time. Fall Semester we had some minor problems, but members of the IT team were able to fix things within a short amount of time. Archway crashed last night because, yes, there were too many people accessing it at the same time. The server should have been able to handle the number of students online, but it did not.


What action was taken last night to fix the problem?

Dean Breslin: Staggering the number of students allowed to access Archway solves the problem. We thought we had staggered that number appropriately, but we obviously did not.


How soon did IT begin to address the crash?

Dean Breslin: IT responded as quickly possible. It took longer than expected to determine what happened. What the team has done in the past – did not solve last night’s problems.


What action will be taken in the future to fix this problem permanently and prevent it from happening in the future?

Dean Breslin: Staggering students at a more reasonable pace for the existing server will help. The College is moving to a new server for Archway this summer – we did not have that server last night. IT team members essentially created a code that told the server that it had enough memory to push through the tasks needed. For some reason, the server thought otherwise.??When the new server is in place, IT folks will run a performance test to confirm where bottlenecks are and make adjustments accordingly.


When was the last time that registration had to be pushed back an entire night due to an Archway failure?

Dean Breslin: Years ago—at least more than 4.


Why was the Archway not officially closed until 9:39 last night when the Archway crashed much sooner?

Dean Breslin: The true answer to that question is we wanted to ensure as much fairness as possible to all students involved last night. We didn’t want the 9:00 p.m. group to have an advantage over the 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. groups who were experiencing trouble. We stopped the process earlier than the email notification went out. We hoped to get things working so we could continue the process, but discerning why the crash happened took longer than we anticipated.


A lot of students were very angry about the Archway crashing and posted comments that reflected this on Facebook and Twitter. How do you respond to these sorts of student reactions?

Dean Breslin: We understood and shared students’ frustrations – and when people are frustrated they have a host of reactions: anger and sarcastic humor among them. We try not to take the reactions personally, but we take them seriously. I saw most of the posts as healthy reactions to a very, very frustrating situation. Faculty members posted too.