UITS Changes for the Worse

By Eric Seymour

When I first came to I.U., I found the computing resources here to be a literal computer geek's dream. I could connect directly to the Internet from my dorm room, surf the World Wide Web for hours on end without tying up a phone line, even build my own web page for people all over the world to see. Beyond the confines of my dorm room, I could access special tools like photo scanners, use all kinds of software for free, check email almost anywhere on campus, and print papers and other documents with near-professional quality. All this for a $100 fee was an absolute steal!

However, this all began to change awhile ago, when University Computing Services (UCS) merged with some other services at I.U. Bloomington and IUPUI to form University Information Technology services (UITS). Though this new acronym was significantly less catchy, that has turned out to be, by far, the most benign change.

On March 26, 1998, UITS announced a pioneering agreement with Microsoft, by which the University acquired a licence to many popular titles of software. On its face, this seemed a great deal, and I'm still excited about trying out some of that software. A more ominous note is that the licence for Corel's WordPerfect will expire this fall, and not be renewed. Therefore, Microsoft Word will be the only choice on campus for word processing.

While I don't in general subscribe to the idea that big corporations are inherently evil, it is disturbing for IU to be granting Microsoft an effective monopoly on certain areas of software on campus. Sometimes uniformity is desirable and efficient, but in this case it would seem that variety would be the better option. Companies will provide better service if their products must compete. It seems that IU is surely big enough for 2 word processing packages.

The other major change announced last month is a scheme to ration printing privileges. UITS announced some figures showing a disproportionate share of printing costs in the overall increase in operating costs on campus. They assert that this is due to "abuse" of printing (such as using computer labs to print out large numbers of flyers or needlessly printing material from the Web. Their solution for this is to set a limit of printed pages for each user, above which a per-page fee will be assessed to their Bursar account.

This sounds good in theory, but is unfair in principal. By charging a flat fee, UITS makes its resources a quasi-public good for members of the IU community. The plan above is like setting a limit for visits to the SRSC, and charging for each visit afterwards. Everyone pays a flat fee for both UITS and the SRSC, and some use one more than the other.

Let's not penalize those who get full use from UITS. There are other ways to keep students from flagrant abuse of resources. UITS has a chance to actually improve its services and efficiencey, but if they're not careful, bureaucratic decisions can turn one of the most outstanding aspects of IU into another administrative pain-in-the-net.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Bryan Wilhelm

Bryant Lewis
Joel Corbin