College of Education is shutting down their computer lab

Georgia State students use the computer lab located on the second floor of the College of Education building. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) has decided it’s doing away with their second-floor computer lab after budget cuts, but some students at the college feel as if they were purposely kept out of the loop.

Matt Gillett, the College’s Administrative Officer, said the budget “redirection” left them with two choices – to lay off people, or to take away the computer lab, otherwise known as the Instructional Technology Center (ITC). However, the latter came as the more attractive option as the computer lab, he said, is a duplicate service anyway.

But Brandon Simpson, computer lab student employee, said that is not the case.

“[The students that come here] don’t want to be in the crowded library. It’s more silent than the library, people can rent out equipment,” he said. “It’s the most used space in the College of Education.”

As for the money, Simpson said the computer lab is well worth it.

“How are you going to take away a space that’s costing a lot of money, [when] it’s costing a lost of money for good reason?”

But Paul Alberto, Dean of the College, said the university’s budget redirection left their college with no other choice. It’s up to the Mark Becker,  Georgia State president, to determine the priorities, and where to put the money, and exactly how much of it, too. According to Dr. Alberto, these decisions left the College with a loss of $700,000.

“When you’re trying to get $700,000 sometimes you pick things that people don’t like. In this case, [closing the computer lab] is saving us somewhere close to $200,000 and this is the fourth year in a row I’ve been making cuts at a budget time,” he said. ‘It’s not like we haven’t done lots of other things before we came to this.”

Taking away the computer lab, Dr. Alberto said, was the only way to keep everything else at the college running.

“No staff was let go, no faculty was let go, no programs were closed,” he said.

Despite the tough decision, Keionna Lamar, student employee at the lab, said she feels like there’s a disconnect between the administration and the students, because faculty don’t realize how much students use the space.

“I don’t understand how money is a problem since it’s utilized on a daily basis. I don’t understand how the administration can take away something the students utilize so much,” she said.

According to Simpson and Nija Nelson, a former early childhood education major, the space is vital for students’ success within the college.

The College of Education computer lab, which has been in place for nearly 25 years, provides one-on-one assistance with education-specific projects, videos, and sessions.

“{Students are here] five days a week to pass their classes. They use this place for study sessions with their study coaches,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what I would have done if this space didn’t exist.”

Often times, the computer lab serves as the only place older students can turn to for basic things like checking their email and having someone patiently walk them through technological services they may not be familiar with.

Lamar said that collaboration and convenience are what make the place so special.

“It’s sad. Grad students are ticked off about it — it’s hard to get a room reserved in the library, and even worse a computer. And elderly students were upset as well,” Lamar said. “We offer patient help and assistance with knowing how to print, and getting their email.”

All three employees said they first heard about the decision about a month ago.

“It’s been a topic of discussion for a while,” Lamar said. “It was about a month, a month and a half ago when they made the decision.” But even that decision wasn’t shared with students. Emails went out to employees, but the students of the College of Education were not notified.

On Friday, April 7, two hours after The Signal spoke with Gillett, students received their first notifications.

Addressed to the CEHD students, the email said the due to necessary fund redirects, the ITC will be closed permanently starting May 5, 2017.

“It was determined that many of the services offered by the ITC were duplicated elsewhere on the downtown campus, and therefore the decision was made to close in order to redirect the center’s budget – which is funded fully through state funds – elsewhere,” the email said.

The email also stated that originally, the space was created to “provide the college’s external partners, such as schools systems, assistance with instruction in new technologies.” However, according to administration, that’s no longer needed.

CEHD student Sarah Roberts started a petition as soon as she heard about the decision. She put up flyers on all floors of the building and gathered 191 signatures in a petition she left at the computer lab front desk, as well as feedback to an online survey about the computer lab’s usage.

She said she feels students were not properly informed about a decision that will have such a big impact on their academic lives.

“The dean, Dr. Alberto, seems to be doing everything he can to silence the students. It’s as if he’s sticking his fingers in his ears so he won’t have to hear from us. As a tuition-paying student, I only ask to be informed and heard concerning decisions that affect the services so many of us use for studying,” Roberts said.

Roberts said student employees were instructed by administration to take down the flyers, and take the petition off from the ITC front desk.

“They were told to take down the posters, until they asked permission, because that’s what it says in the [Georgia State] guidelines. We would have been fine with them putting up one of their posters on the ITC. But they didn’t, and so they were shown what is down at the lobby, which is the Georgia State policy,” Dr. Alberto said. “If they had come to us we would have let them put up one flyer by the ITC.”

Roberts found out about the ITC shutting down from a professor, and then started asking around.

“The professor said it was because of “budget cuts” and because it wasn’t utilized enough. The lab is often so full that it is difficult to find a seat,” Roberts said.

“This is nothing we’re trying to hide,” Alberto said. “We do that [communicate the decision] through the departments and the department chairs who’ve been in this discussion for months. Each department would communicate with their students differently. I can’t tell you what each of them did.”

And as for the budget cuts, Roberts is not buying it.

“I know they say they don’t have enough money to keep it going but it keeps running through my head, ‘Why did they buy all new computers and new smart boards if they didn’t have the money? What’s going to happen to all of those new computers?’” she said.

As for the future of the space, Dr. Alberto said he will be in discussions and taking suggestions from department heads, but it will continue to be college space and used for college purposes.

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