Ramapo’s password reset creates challenges for students and staff

The Information Technology Services (ITS) department recently required a campus-wide password change, the effects of which continued to reverberate across campus for nearly a week afterward. 

An email from ITS popped into inboxes on Feb. 7 at approximately 11:45 a.m., requiring all to reset their password within a 24-hour window with the risk of losing access to online services, including Google accounts, email, Canvas and on-campus WiFi. The reset included all student, faculty, staff, club and organization email accounts.

The email from ITS described the action as “a new security measure to enhance the protection of our campus digital resources.”

Deputy Chief Information Officer and Director of Critical Infrastructure Michael Cunningham explained further in an email to The Ramapo News that it “was not a response to a specific security incident” but was more of a proactive measure to ensure system security and protect against any compromised or outdated passwords.

“The 24-hour window of time within which passwords needed to be changed, while inconvenient, gave us invaluable insight into the capacity of our systems and the agility of our processes to manage a broad scale disruption,” he stated.

While a password change may seem simple enough, the email caught many off-guard. 

Wednesday is notoriously a day when many students and faculty have off from classes, creating the possibility that many wouldn’t see the email until the next day. If they didn’t catch the initial or follow-up email in time — or if anyone saw them and was busy or forgot — they were out of luck and either had to take extra steps outlined in the email to correct the issue or visit the ITS Help Desk for support.

“I was one of those that did not change it in time [and] I luckily was able to do the ‘forgot password’ option and change it relatively quickly,” senior Madison Heck stated in an email.

However, she continued to face issues afterward that, like for many others, extended into the weekend and beyond. She visited the ITS Help Desk multiple times, and while she said they offered assistance, she dealt with connection issues more than a week after the reset.

“I didn’t know changing my password would make it possible for me to not connect to the WiFi on campus. I was late to submitting work for classes and could not do anything on my computer on campus,” she stated.

The password change not only affected students, but also professors. Professor of graphic design and interactive media Bonnie Blake was forced to cancel classes on Feb. 8 because of it.

“I had a tremendous amount of anxiety. I just felt lost because I went to somebody [from ITS], they claimed that they fixed it… but then… I realized it didn’t work… I couldn’t get into Canvas, I couldn’t get into Banner, so it really crippled me and it set me back,” she said in an interview. “And it wasn’t just me. Practically every other faculty member was having the same problem.”

Senior Denisse Gonzalez Ramirez shared that while she changed her password with roughly an hour to spare, she witnessed firsthand the effects that it had both on the campus community and the ITS Help Desk.

“There was a lot of people who got logged out,” she said in an interview. “There were lines that wrapped around the library walls because there were that many people [at the ITS Help Desk].”

According to Cunningham, ITS resolved more than 300 help desk tickets as of last Wednesday, with about 80% of users having updated their passwords.

“We acknowledge that some community members experienced difficulties during this process,” he stated. “We deeply regret the stress this caused and extend our sincerest apologies to those affected.”

According to the initial email, passwords will now expire every 180 days. Cunningham assured that ITS will take all feedback into account as they work to improve their processes amid future initiatives.

“As we move forward, we remain dedicated to enhancing our cybersecurity practices, ensuring the security and integrity of our IT infrastructure,” he stated. “Every single member of our community plays a crucial role in maintaining a secure and thriving digital environment at Ramapo College.”



Additional reporting by James LaForge


Featured photo courtesy of Ramapo College