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The Scarlet & Black

Staff editorial: ITS deemphasizing “services” to students’ detriment

Shadman Asif uses a Hard Drive kit to fix a computer. Photo by Tela Ebersole
Shadman Asif uses a Hard Drive kit to fix a computer. Photo by Tela Ebersole
Shadman Asif uses a Hard Drive kit to fix a computer. Photo by Tela Ebersole

Since the beginning of the semester, Information Technology Services (ITS) has implemented a number of changes to the way they operate, including reducing hours and eliminating many services previously offered to students. These changes have been introduced without any effective communication with the student body. The S&B feels that by changing the way it operates, ITS has deemphasized the “services” aspect of Information Technology Services, thereby reducing the accessibility of professional technical help for students.

The department has done away with many free-of-charge services that it used to provide, including data recovery and repairing or replacing computer parts. Students can no longer go to ITS to recover their documents if a hard drive dies. They can no longer go to ITS to repair a fan, to get a new battery installed or get a screen replaced—all services which used to be provided for free, as long as students paid for the necessary hardware.

Instead, ITS is recommending students go into town to B3 Technology, who will diagnose computer problems for free but charge for actual repairs (though at a five percent student discount). Alternatively, ITS has also begun checking out hard drive and memory replacement kits, the theory being that students can fix their own computers if given the proper equipment. However, many students do not have the professional expertise of Technology Consutants (TCs). Having fixed dozens if not hundreds of student computers TCs can often tell whether problems can be resolved cheaply or not—for instance, fixing a malfunctioning computer with a 10-dollar SATA cable rather than buying a 75-dollar replacement hard drive.

Neither of these solutions benefit students, who now either have to go into town and pay for their repairs or learn the technical skills required to fix their computers. The S&B understands that these measures are likely intended to cut costs, but by reducing their services ITS has simply displaced the cost of technology repairs onto students, putting up barriers for those who may not have the time or resources to resolve their own technical issues.

Alongside reductions in services come reductions in staffing. In the past, there were two desks in the Forum staffed by TCs—the Student Helpdesk, where two TCs fixed student computers, and the Technology Service Desk, where one TC worked primarily to assist faculty with technology issues. Now there is only one desk, operated by two employees at a time, reducing the department’s capacity to meet student and faculty technology needs. Additionally, one of the TCs on duty is often forced to perform non-technical services, such as answering the phone for the College’s general phone number where they will get calls from anyone from angry parents to reporters calling about Jack Taylor.

The Service Desk hours have also been reduced from previous years. The Desk has eliminated 5 to 10 p.m. shifts on weekdays as well as 12 to 10 p.m. shifts on Sundays and now only operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Previously, if a student brought their computer to the Service Desk at 5 p.m., any TCs on duty would be able to work on it until the final shift ended at 10. Now all shifts end at 5 p.m., posing a difficulty for students, such as athletes, who may be busy with class or other activities during the day and early evening and who could only visit the Service Desk after hours. Even if they went to B3 Technology, as ITS suggests, they would not be able to receive help after 5 p.m.

None of these changes have been effectively communicated with students, who may visit the Service Desk only to find that it is closed or that the employees will not fix their computer. There was no email sent announcing the change in hours or the reduction in services, and the new schedule could not easily be found on the ITS web page. The only two all-campus emails ITS has sent since the beginning of the semester were an announcement that ITS had resolved intermittent campus Wi-Fi issues on Sept. 24 and a warning to students not to share music or movies illegally, sent on Sept. 12.

ITS should realize that providing technology assistance to students needs to be a priority and that students have the right to know how and why the department has reduced their services. As ITS transitions to hiring a new director following the departure of Donald Tom on Sept. 24, we hope it can restore the kinds of services that the Grinnell community relies on.

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