University Computer Services changing

The changes may lead to outsourcing non-U vendors for the services now offered.

by Devin Henry

University Computer Services has entered a restructuring phase that looks to outsource services to non-University vendors.

Renee Rivers, who works in the Office of Information Technology, said the University’s departmental computer refurbishing and resale services could be handled by off-campus companies.

Rivers said UCS had 443 departmental computer pick-ups in 2007, bringing in more than 10,000 items.

A request for proposal – an invitation for outside vendors to bid on taking over certain services – is in its

final stages, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail. Departments can go through UCS for now, Rivers said.

In addition to departmental computer pick-ups and refurbishing and resale options, UCS also offered software distribution and laptop rentals – a program no longer in service.

When departments needed to dispose of their old computer equipment, UCS picked the equipment up and cleared the hard drives before either refurbishing the computers for resale or recycling them.

It’s too early to know who might take over the services, but Rivers said once an outside vendor is selected, the University community will be notified and pick-up processes will remain the same.

But other UCS services, such as software distribution, are in limbo.

While discounted software from Microsoft is still available for students, faculty and staff, Rivers said that could be affected.

“If it’s not distributed here, it would be distributed somewhere else,” she said.

Dan Stevens, a scientific and technological communications senior, bought discounted versions of Microsoft Office, Vista Ultimate and a desktop computer from UCS. He said he likes the services UCS provides.

“It’s the easiest way to get the discount,” he said.

Stevens said he has no problem with the outsourcing of UCS services, as long as prices stay low.

Rivers said she can’t predict whether prices will change, as it depends on the vendor chosen to take over the service. People will still be able to purchase refurbished computers, she said.

“They’ll still have an option to buy, but it will just be a different route,” she said.

Computer engineering junior Andrew Gontarek purchased his copy of Vista Ultimate through UCS. He said he thinks moving UCS services off-campus is a bad idea.

“I think they should keep it in the ‘U,’ provide more jobs for ‘U’ students,” he said. “I think it’s something they probably can handle.”

Rivers said the 15 student positions will be retained in the Rent-A-Guru program, which is a desktop computer support program that will remain despite changes to UCS. Rivers said the service receives around 100 customers per month.

“All the students here are multitaskers,” she said. “They’ve been involved in all facets of the University Computer Services.”

Full-time staffing is not expected to be affected, either.

“Retaining employees is a major goal,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I don’t think we’ll have any problems with that.”

Rivers said she couldn’t put a timeframe on a finalized contract with an outside vendor, but she said UCS employees will continue to work with the University.

“The ‘U’s’ computer sales and recycling indirectly affects the University’s core mission,” she said. “But we can better focus on other services as well.”