Uni of Western Sydney suffers spam attack by 'Anonymous' to protest iPad buy

Uni of Western Sydney suffers spam attack by 'Anonymous' to protest iPad buy
Image: Rego Korosi/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Rego Korosi/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The University of Western Sydney’s email servers were confirmed to have been breached yesterday, according to several reports – including the University’s Facebook page, by someone calling themselves “Anonymous”. The main reason? To protest the university’s plan to give all of its students and staff members an iPad.

According to the Register, the attacker used the servers to send spam and also subscribed students to various mailing lists. Facebook reports suggests that users received around 300 unsolicited emails in their university’s email account. UWS is saying that this was only limited to an email list and that their student accounts are not in any danger.

We’re also going to go out on a limb here and say the “Anonymous” here isn’t “Anonymous” that you know on the internet – the people who protest against data retention laws, or supporting Wikileaks. This is probably some disgruntled student at the University, and is just using the “Anonymous” name because anybody can use the name Anonymous.

In an email, also posted on the Facebook wall of the University by another person, he also attacks the University for not teaching entire disciplines like Economics and languages, and firing those teachers. On the iPad initiative, he labels it as a “marketing gimmick” and says that it “is extremely locked down in terms of scalability… It is no more than a toy, and for some reason UWS seams to think that the ability to play Angry Birds during lectures and tutorials will somehow provide a better learning experience.”

Technical flaws aside, I would say that the iPad, or indeed any tablet, is great for education. You don’t have to carry heavy text books in your bag, and have access to so many resources at the palm of your hand – from websites to applications. Yes, people might use it to play Angry Birds, but you might find some people might also use it for education.

The attack isn’t an attack by a fanboy who doesn’t like Apple, however. The attack is part of university politics – and this student, albeit spamming is probably not the best way to do so, is in effect protesting about the decisions to shut down disciplines.

The full email can be found below:

I’m sure you have all heard about how UWS has chosen to allocate millions of dollars in funding into purchasing and giving out iPads for free to all students starting their studies in 2013. UWS will also be spending several million dollars in infrastructure upgrades to cope with the load from the iPads. This comes in at a total cost of some $35 million.

This so-called iPad initiative is nothing more than a marketing gimmick (internally referred to as the “Direct offer plan”) built on the idea that potential students are ignorant enough to gamble their education in exchange for a $500 piece of technology that will be out-dated before their first year of studies, provided they do not leave or transfer, is over.

Even though UWS experienced a $30 million surplus recently, it used the claim of a lack of funding to suddenly (with no warning to the students, even though it decided in the first quarter of 2012) stop offering entire disciplines (such as Economics and various languages) and release the staff that were hired to teach those disciplines. Rather than building a reputation for having a wide offering of subjects and fairly treating their students, it seems they’ve opted to insult their current students by discontinuing their degrees, and insulting their future students by assuming they make their decisions irrationally based on their (inherent?) desire for trendy consumer goods.

The ‘iPad initiative,’ as the university calls it, was made with no notification or input from any students or teaching staff, nor was there wasn’t any indication (given their claims of poor financial status) that such an action would occur. The NSW Division of the NTEU has also remarked that the cost of this is unacceptable.

The sad part in all of this is that the tablet they’ve chosen to gift the students is not only the most expensive to maintain, nor is it just fundamentally and significantly overpriced for the technical specifications it carries, but it is also extremely locked down in terms of scalability. Apple refuses to allow things such as saving files (other than photos), rendering Flash-based websites and videos, and does not even have a decent office suite available. It is no more than a toy, and for some reason UWS seems to think that the ability to play Angry Birds during lectures and tutorials will somehow provide a better learning experience.

UWS claims that technology is the best way to facilitate student learning, and that is why they are doing this. This is yet another insult to the current students who, aside from not being offered the amazingly educating iPad from UWS, are forced to share an extremely limited amount of computers in the campus libraries. Things as simple as wanting to just print a document results in a 5 to 10 minute waits for computers to free up. Maybe this is where the iPad comes in—we can play Angry Birds to pass time while we wait for an actual workstation to free up? I’ve heard the iPad’s battery life lasts for several hours, so it would definitely last long enough, right?

What we have here is a case of desperation showing the lack of sense and reasoning that the marketing division (and those who approved this ridiculous campaign) has. Rather than attempting to fix the issues within the university, they’ve attempted to bribe and con those who are unaware. Metaphorically, if UWS was a car, they’ve decided that getting new hub caps will fix its rear bumper.

The logic behind this (as explained by Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education at UWS) is that UWS has, with all of its knowledge, discovered that only 5% of students own a tablet. It also found through surveys that a significant amount of students would in fact want to own an iPad. The result? The ghost of Christmas Present in UWS has decided that it was time to give away iPads. If only they’d have surveyed how many students own luxury cars, they may have decided to gift students a free Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG instead.

I am not being an Ebenezer Scrooge and saying “Bah! Humbug!” to Father Christmas, also known as UWS, for giving away these items just for the sake of saying it. I am saying it because I am disappointed that the elves, also known as the student body, has slaved away in sub-par conditions for a very long time only to be slapped in the face.

It’s not all bad for existing students however. They are given a $50 textbook voucher. This may help to bring a single textbook down to the price that is offered at any other bookstore, and reduce the UWS profit margin on books from 75% to 50%.

Welcome to UWS.


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