SSC computer lab closes, AFT files grievance

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SSC computer lab closes, AFT files grievance

Frankie Kavalir, Allegheny Campus Staff

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CCAC’s mission statement asserts that it “prepares individuals to succeed in a complex global society by providing affordable access to high quality career and transfer education delivered in a diverse, caring and innovative learning environment.” However, the exact details of what constitutes that “innovative learning environment” may be disagreed upon by some administration, faculty and students when it comes to technology.

CCAC Allegheny plans to close down the Foerster Student Services Center (SSC) computer lab in the spring semester, an action which will occur alongside the displacement of the educational technicians and the movement of some computers to the library and Learning Commons area. 

This closing follows similar closings at several other CCAC campuses. Chief Information Officer Charles Graham states that this decision was made based upon electronic research done to record the usage of lab computers. At CCAC South Campus, average usage over the last eight months was calculated to be about five students per hour, and an even lesser usage was recorded at Allegheny Campus, therefore not seeming to be a cost-effective situation.

“We took a look at the effective usage of it,” Graham said. “That money. . . it’s not going to continue to be put into a kind of area that a very small percentage of students kind of use.”

Though Graham says that this money is not being used effectively, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) at CCAC disagree and recently filed a grievance against the school regarding this action. CCAC AFT Chapter President John Dziak believes that even a low usage can mean be significant for students.

“It’s just like when we had a daycare center here too, and they said it didn’t pay for itself,” Dziak said. “Well, many of these programs don’t pay for themselves, but they’re needed for students.”

Though some computers will, in the technology department’s current plan, be taken away, about 15 of these computers will be moved to the library area, and more will be installed over time if deemed necessary. However, the AFT chapter’s more prominent problem addressed in the grievance involves laying off the current educational technicians. AFT Chapter Vice President Jacqueline Cavalier explained the situation further:

“We have a contractual obligation to oversee anything that involves the displacement of an AFT employee. But at the same time, not only are we advocating for faculty, we are advocating for the teaching and learning environment, which means student services.”

Graham says that the research done shows that these educational technicians have not been the most effective use of student funds. The technology departments research showed that of all the calls or visits made to educational technicians, 62 percent of the tickets were used for student account issues, a problem the school now hopes to automate through an application. 

“You never have a phone call to the service desk, you never have someone at the lab physically present to do it—we’re trying to get away from all that so the student isn’t frustrated,” Graham said.

Student Diana Aquilar says that the educational technicians are useful, but her calls to them are, in fact, most frequently for account problems.

“I use the services because I always forget my password,” Aquilar said.

The AFT’s main concern with this displacement is that other faculty or staff, such as librarians will have to overtake any responsibilities the educational technicians currently have, which is not a part of others’ contracts. However, Graham insists that, apart from any basic printing issues, all problems will be taken care of through a kiosk-like system, where students can enter a booth, press a button, and be connected to ITS for any problem-solving.

“It’s really to put the services more in the students’ hands, not to have an intermediary for all of these things,” Graham said. “The librarians there, their purpose is not going to be answering technical questions. Their role is not going to expand.”

The whole move is, apart from internal research, based on observation of other colleges and universities trending towards having centralized hubs with all services in one location.

“Now, not only do they have the same capacity that students have to be able to do the work they need to, they’re in direct vicinity to tutoring or any other services they need from a resource standpoint. It’s kind of a consolidation.”

Still, the AFT questions the loss of some computer access and how that will affect students, in addition to questioning the accuracy of usage research done. Making sure technology services are available to students is a top priority for them.

“My experience has been, as much as students are carrying around phones. . . not everyone has access to the internet at home,” Cavalier said. “We pride ourselves on being an open enrollment institution that provides ample support services for students, especially students that might be at a disadvantage and may not necessarily have access to these types of resources.”

Graham concedes that there has been a bit of a communication breakdown between administration and faculty on the matter and hopes to hold meetings and forums in the near future to clear up any confusions. 

“I feel there’s a little bit of a breakdown,” Graham said. “They don’t realize they’re not really losing anything.”

When asked if there might be any potential alternatives for the technology department to cut costs with trends of lowered enrollment and other disadvantages, Cavalier says that the issue is more a matter of planning before implementation.”

“I think that we need to examine the matter further and iron out some of these wrinkles. . . before implementing the changes.”