We Don't Need No Education(al Software)
If UT is so hard up for cash, why is it removing computer labs to make way for "student meeting spaces"?
By Richard Whittaker, 2:50PM, Thu. Aug. 2, 2007
The University of Texas at Austin is complaining that it doesn't have enough money to replace essential computers for journalism students to do real reporting on. But it's still got the cash for big screen TVs, so they can watch CNN and see what a journalist looks like.
On Tuesday, UT Austin president Bill Powers announced that, because those big old meanies at the lege wouldn't pump more cash into his school, departments were going to have to suffer 2% budget cuts. In an interview with the Daily Texan yesterday, Dean of UT's School of Communication Roderick Hart said that he would be cutting $400,000 from his budget, including delayed replacement of old equipment. Which is kind of handy because they've managed to have fewer computers anyway, after closing one of its most-used computer labs.
The school is housed in the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center, with journalism, advertising, and radio, television and film, as well as communications disorders, based in the CMA building in the complex. Up until this past spring break, that was home to the school's only open-access computer lab. Staffed by students, it was an essential tool for many undergrads who needed access to wordprocessors, or image and design software like Adobe Creative Suite, essential for course work.
"Was" being the operative word, because it was demolished to make way for a newly-opened "student meeting space."
However, postgrads were hit particularly hard. These were the only open-access machines in the department to carry a piece of software called SPSS, the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. This essential and industry-standard tool for sociological and demographic database work – as in, exactly the kind of thing that Masters and PhD candidates are supposed to do – disappeared with the machines.
Of course, the department claimed that the same software is available in the computer labs (which are often locked or being used for these funny things called "classes") or in other departments (so just schlep off to the other end of campus, OK?). Then again, the department has also claimed that it entered into consultation with students on the future of the lab (news to every student Chronic spoke to), and that the machines were under-used (which would therefore explain the fact there was a cue and a sign-in machine to get waitlisted for an available desk and desktop machine.)
So what's there instead of this essential workroom? Some Ikea-looking seating, some carells (byl - bring your own laptop), and a bunch of great big plasma screen TVs. So maybe when Hart says he's going to have to think about when they buy new equipment, maybe he's just going to think twice about buying an XBox 360 until the price comes down.