OIT is losing sight of its own mission

Subsidized computer repairs for students are being cut, and the U’s bottom line is set to benefit.

For the second time in a year, the University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology is cutting a relatively small but important service, passing on the cost to students.

In both cases, OIT blamed declining student demand. In both cases, University Bookstores — which is struggling to make ends meet — has stepped in with a more expensive alternative.

Canceling student discounts for Microsoft Office was just the first step. Axing subsidized computer repairs has cemented a disappointing philosophical shift at the University — treating student technology needs as opportunities for revenue rather than service.

“The bookstore’s got it; the private sector’s got it,” Vice President and Chief Information Officer Scott Studham told the Minnesota Daily last week, referring to the repair services. “The University shouldn’t be spending students’ tuition money on offering the same services from multiple locations.”

This statement is only partially true. Until very recently, University Bookstores’ computer services were limited. The company announced a slew of new repair options Monday — services that will begin the day after subsidized OIT repair stops.

Studham and OIT as a whole have tried to frame device repair service as a redundancy and a waste of students’ money. In fact, the service cost only about $150,000 annually, employing six students and one full-time employee who performed on average 90 repairs per month. The service wasn’t redundant until OIT made cuts and the bookstore announced a full-price alternative.

OIT is meant to serve the entire University, and subsidized repair services are an important part of that mission. Cutting them in favor of full-priced bookstore repairs is a disservice to students in exchange for a little boost to the University Bookstores’ bottom line.