Fighting for campus technology stability

Students and faculty express continuous frustration with on-campus Wi-Fi, computers

Published by Sarah Anderson, Date: December 4, 2022
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Technological issues at SRU have begun to effect students to the point that they started a petition to attempt to make changes to the faulty technology system.

Conversations about technology issues on personal computers and software delays on campus computer labs are circulating.

Kayla Martz, a fifth-year senior strategic communication and media major, was inspired by technology conflicts in her social media analytics class. People were talking about their frustrations with the lack of help and resources for technology issues for both students and professors.

SRU has an Information and Administrative Technology Services (IATS) Department that provides computing and communications infrastructure, services and support for on-campus technology.

For Martz and her classmates, IATS was not helpful in resolving these issues. The class required software to be downloaded on the computer lab Macs for class assignments, and the semester began without it.

The professor contacted IATS multiple times to obtain this software. There was no solution provided.

Martz said students were backed into a corner, now needing to install this software onto their own personal computers. The conversation shifted to the frustration of using personal storage and RAM for a software that should be available on school computers.

They began a petition with hopes of starting an open conversation about the technology issues on campus. Walking through the Quad and the Smith Student Center during various common hour periods, the petition gathered over 150 signatures.

Each student had a personal experience with on-campus technology issues.

Many students said they had to use their own personal cell phone data plans and hot spots to do assignments, take quizzes and/or join Zoom calls.

The issues stretch beyond students, though. Professors are sharing very similar frustrations.

Jason Stuart, an SRU assistant English professor, said the desktop in his office has caused him a lot of problems, which led him to buying his own MacBook.

“It’s ancient [and] barely functions,” he said. “I usually come back from any long weekend to find that it has that flashing folder icon and it can’t start or restart on its own. [I]’ll restart it and wait, and then it’ll update all the office programs, and it’ll take five minutes to verify each before they launch, and then a bunch of stuff auto-launches, and it’s just so much waiting.”

Stuart received a $10,000 grant to purchase technology for the English department. With this money, he was able to afford two iMac Pros for production that are estimated to have at least 10 years of use before possible performance issues.

“It took two years to even get [the iMacs],” he said. “[T]hat’s two years of future-proofing down the drain. Then, they stick them on random student tables in [the classroom] and drape an ethernet wire knee-high to the wall outlet.”

He submitted a work order to fix the imminent safety hazard, which took two months to resolve. Stuart said they ended up using cheap duct tape to stick the wire to the floor.

Computers in the Spotts World Culture Building do not come with Adobe software, despite various publications being housed in the building, as well as classes being taught that require the applications.

IATS suggested that Stuart uses the computer labs in the Eisenberg Classroom Building where the College of Business is housed.

After discovering an issue with one of the Mac computers, Martz found out that there is not a Mac specialist in the IATS department. In her petition, she received responses that show the lack of education the employees of IATS on Mac computers.

An in-state undergraduate student taking 12 to 21 credits pays $239 in technology fees within the tuition payment. An out-of-state undergraduate student taking the same amount of credit pays $364 in technology fees.

The university said the SRU technology fee enables the university to invest in instructional technology by upgrading computer labs and classrooms and providing other technological enhancements, but Martz said she does not see those enhancements happening.

“We were looking at sharing the technology fee [with students] because I know a lot of students don’t look at the fees that they pay in tuition, or the amount those fees are,” Martz said.

Martz started this petition with the goal of approaching the Slippery Rock University Student Government Association (SRSGA) with it to hopefully fix these issues. Her ideal solution is to refund this semester’s technology fee or waive it for next semester.

Through conversations she had while gathering signatures, she said students want a solution to the Wi-Fi issues, as well as a strong, fast and reliant connection.

Stuart, who previously served as a member of the Tech Advisory Committee, said there is an extreme lack of communication within the IATS department.

“Nobody called [the meeting] to order,” he said. “There’s no advisory oversight, [and] there’s no communication. Everybody’s just mad.”

Martz is hoping her petition will increase the volume of the conversation and begin the works of a solution.

“Nothing’s going to be done unless we speak up, say something, make some noise and educate people about what’s going on,” she said.

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