Head of Information Technology steps down after 12 years of service
Recent re-organizations within the Information Technology Department have resulted in the termination of the popular Associate Director of Networks and Operations.
After 12 years of working in a variety of different positions within Bowdoin's Information Technology Department, Charles Banks, Associate Director of IT Networks and Operations, will leave his position today.
In its most recent effort to reorganize Bowdoin's Information Technology department, Mitch Davis, recently appointed as Bowdoin's Chief Information Officer, has eliminated Banks's position. The decision came as a surprise to a number of Banks's former students and colleagues, many of whom have drafted letters expressing their concern and appreciation for the former director.
Davis spoke of the decision to terminate Banks, stating, "I've been charged with making a system that will meet Bowdoin's needs both today and in the future. I found that the Director of Networking was a redundant position. I had to consolidate a number of positions to achieve maximum efficiency." Davis maintains that "the decision is not a personal one, but an institutional one made to meet the needs of the students and faculty."
In 1996, Banks and his colleagues built Bowdoin's networking system from the ground up. According to Banks, he and a team of Bowdoin students worked together with contractors to install the College's networking infrastructure, beginning by wiring all dorm rooms and college buildings with many thousands of feet of copper and fiber optic cable. Soon after, the NOC, or Network Operations Center, was formed so he could continue to build and maintain his system.
To aid him in his endeavor, Banks continued to use his team of students as well as a number of full-time employees, teaching them the basics of network infrastructure and network management. Today, Bowdoin's system is a venue where international companies, most notably Enterasys, bring prospective clients to show off their products in action.
John Meyers, Class of '02, cites this trust that Banks places in his students as being unprecedented, and states that it allowed him and his colleagues to develop advanced skills that have continued to aid them in their respective professions.
"The rare thing about Charles," Meyers states, "is that he empowered his students to actually design, build, and maintain the College's infrastructure at the same level as professional staff. Students were very highly trusted, and that made a difference."
Meyers worked with Banks as an employee of NOC during his four years at Bowdoin before being hired full-time as a Systems Engineer, a position he held for 11 months after his graduation. He credits Banks as being not only exceptional as a staff member but as a colleague, and friend. Like many of his colleagues, he was surprised and disturbed by Bank's termination.
"The termination in such a corporate manner of an employee such as Charles, who represented some of the best Bowdoin can offer, flies in the face of the very virtues the College has instilled in its students for hundreds of years" says Meyers.
Current Student Manager Anthony Costa, '05, sees a definite correlation between NOC's success as a group and Bank's trust in his students. "He is a boss, a friend, and probably one of the most important figures I have met here. He built the network from the bottom up and had a way of organizing that was incredibly effective."
Like Meyers, Costa believes in the importance of having complete access to the system. "I think that one of the things that the current administration is missing is that NOC was a team, and that was the reason that we were so effective." Costa said. "I don't know of any other college that gives students this kind of access. Without it, I can't diagnose and fix network problems."
Both Costa and Meyers represent a group who have worked with Banks extensively and feel that his termination will be detrimental to Bowdoin's system over a period of time. Costa believes that communication between divisions within the IT will suffer.
"With Charlie gone," said Costa, "I worry that there will be significantly less communication between the people that make administrative network decisions and the people that implement them on a regular basis."
Matt Cowger, '03, who also worked with Banks at NOC, states, "I'm afraid that the bi-directional value that the college has experienced will be lost in [Charles'] departure."
Cowger now works at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State, a career, he says, that he owes to Charles. "Charlie built the system. Before him, it simply did not exist. The new administration does not have the ten years of experience with Bowdoin's network that Charlie has. I'm nearly 100 percent sure that Bowdoin will feel the effects of Charlie's absence."
"[Charlie] trusted his students in a way that is rarely seen." Cowger said. "There are over ten years of students who do or will owe their careers to Charlie. The College owes him significant thanks. His friendship was one of the most important parts of my Bowdoin education."
Banks cites his work with students as one of the most rewarding parts of his tenure at Bowdoin. "I've had former students who are now on Wall Street, in med school, getting their P.h.D.'s. I've had the pleasure of working with some amazing young people. Working with the students truly has been my joy."
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