Funding gaps leave computer labs in lurch
With the constant change of technology, the University is always trying to keep computer labs up to date and well
maintained, but not all computer labs are equal, and their quality depends on the budget of each department.
Computer labs across campus should not be equal but equitable, Provost and Assistant Vice President of Academic Budgets and Administration Edward C. (Craig) Ness said.
“(Technology) is constantly moving, so we try our best to keep the best equipment we can for the students, but you can’t go changing every piece of technology on this campus every time someone comes up with something new,” Ness said.
“We try our best, but we have to depend on the structures and the faculty and the people that are running the curriculum in that class to make the case for the replacement of that in line.”
The discrepancy in computer labs across campus is something that compelled College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senator Lucia Ayala-Guerra into joining the Student Government Association.
“For different departments they have different budgets, that’s the reality of things,” Ayala-Guerra, a political science and public relations junior, said. “For instance, the political science department doesn’t have an I.T. guy because they can’t afford it due to the budget cuts they have been doing.”
If students were to compare the computer labs in the math, political science and communications departments, the communications lab would be the best one, Ayala-Guerra said, followed by the political science lab and the math lab.
“We have gotten complaints from the math students saying, ‘Hey, our printer is not working,’” Ayala-Guerra said. “And, political science majors saying, ‘Our computers aren’t worth a crap. They aren’t workable and we can’t really get our stuff done.’”
While budgets go towards various departmental needs, computer labs are still a priority. Student fees also go towards lab maintenance and operations.
“When we charge student fees for technology, we charge for the operation and the purchase of that equipment,” Ness said. “In general, when I work with a college (and) set up what its fee is for technology, I recommend that they decide what their replacement cycle is.”
The Communications Technology Center (CTC) in the Jack J. Valenti School of Comunication is the primary computing facility of 1760 students, with 1300 active users, Shawn McCombs, manager of the CTC, said.
The lab has 3 full-time employees and 15 part-time assistants, and is open 7 days a week. It also has special equipment and software that is tailored to what communications courses teach and what is often used in various communications workplaces.
“We take a lot of pride in knowing we really are the best computing lab on campus,” McCombs said.
The CTC took over ten years to complete due to funding issues. Today, funding comes from various sources, including fees paid by communication students.
Ayala-Guerra, as a double major in the communications and political science departments, has seen both ends of the spectrum, and is interested in trying to solve the problem in her capacity with the SGA.
“The problem is that different students have different needs, and different departments have different budgets, sometimes those needs are not met. That’s a really big issue,” Ayala-Guerra said. “There are different solutions for it, and hopefully this semester we can solve (this problem).”