[SIGCIS-Members] software in univ admin, admissions, budgets, research mgmt 1970-2020

Mark J. Nelson mjn at anadrome.org
Sun Sep 15 17:23:55 PDT 2019

There is a *little* bit of documentation of this for the case of
Carnegie Mellon University scattered through the anthology _Computing
and Change on Campus_ (eds. Sarah Kiesler & Lee Sproull, University of
Cambridge Press, 1987).

In particular, Ch. 10 by Suzanne Penn Weisband, "Instrumental and
Symbolic Aspects of an Executive Information System", briefly discusses
the origin of a software system, EIS, used by CMU administrators. In her
telling it was mostly just cobbled together out of software already
installed on CMU's existing mainframes, tied together with a new
manual. The most relevant discussion (I think) is on p. 154, around "the
Computation Center staff did not design any special software programs
for EIS ... though a budget planning data base was promised for the near


Sharon Traweek <traweek at history.ucla.edu> writes:

> Awkwardly, I have some large queries over a large time span (1970-2020). I am seeking information on decision making about the digital resources used in university administration, admissions, budgeting, and research management since the 1970s. Much that I have found (and witnessed) concerns decisions among a very limited set of products and then deployment strategies about the selected products, rather than what I am seeking: reflections and analysis of why only some kinds of existing products were investigated, rather than developing new resources based on the distinctive features of universities. First, I would welcome counter-examples.
> My preliminary inquiries suggest that much in use by universities is
> * based upon “customer relationship management” (CRM) platforms developed during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and
> * were first designed for industry, then as the management ideas and practices on which they were based became outdated, the older products were then marketed to governments, and finally re-marketed to universities, with limited modifications.
> I do see national and regional variation in these processes.
> I would appreciate information about any engagements with or historical research on either of these decision processes
> * among software design groups to redeploy and market older products to new sectors, or
> * among universities to adapt older products, rather than develop new products specifically for their administrative processes.
> When I began asking these questions I assumed there would be much research already done on these processes; perhaps it is indeed there and I have missed it. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Mark J. Nelson
Assistant Professor, Computer Science
American University, Washington, DC

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