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Senate debates future of computing at UWRF

April 17, 2008

Members of the Student Senate posed a number of questions to Information and Instructional Technology Council [IITC] Chair Hossien Najafi and IITC Vice-Chair Lisa Wheeler at Tuesday’s Senate meeting.

Senate debated on whether or not to mandate the IITC to appoint a task force to develop an implementation strategy such that UWRF becomes a Wireless-Portable-Computing campus. The issue the task force would address is whether future UW-River Falls students will be required to have their own personal laptop computer, thereby eliminating the need for all general computer labs on campus.

“Where do we want to be in five years? We feel that permanent labs are no longer sustainable,” Hossien said. “Studies show that 68 percent of freshmen coming to campus have … laptops … do we really want to have permanent labs on campus or do we want to have the flexibility of forming labs anywhere?”

“The primary concern we’ve heard is … ‘will this pose a financial burden for students?’” Wheeler said. “We do know that we spend around $100,000 per year maintaining labs … can we re-use that money … in a more flexible way to meet both teaching and learning needs here on campus? We’re trying to look not just what’s in front of us right now, but where are we going down the road? What we’re looking for here tonight is [Senate’s] agreement that, in spirit this is a good idea.”

“I really like the way this has been formatted, I like the way they take into account that technology will change in five years,” Sen. Tom Friant said. “This would eliminate the need for professors to reserve computer labs.”

Some members wondered what would happen to students without laptops.

Hossien said that the details have yet to be worked out.

“[UW-Stout] requires students to rent a laptop … it almost cost $1000 per semester,” Facilities and Fees Board Chair Krista Hasselquist said.

“There will be a cost, that’s the bottom line. Is that cost worth it?  We don’t precisely know … we have to confirm [whether] we want to go [in] that direction,” Senate President Derek Brandt said.
The switch would save paper and reduce energy costs for campus.

“It’s going to save us money in the long run,” said former LDPB Chair Mike Pearson. “This is [Senate’s] chance … to make a difference in the long run on this campus.”

Senate voted 14-3, with one senator abstaining, in favor of IITC forming the task force. The findings will be sent back to Student Senate for final approval in spring of 2009.

Other Senate News
• “We are really looking for a strong turnout … we really want your story told,” Communication Studies and Theater Arts [CSTA] Assistant Professor Jennifer Willis-Rivera said in an effort to encourage students and Senators to attend the Student Open Forum for the Higher Learning Commission being held at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the Kinnickinnic River Theater [room 320 in the U.C.]

•The Higher Learning Commission will be on UWRF campus Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to evaluate accreditation of UWRF.
“This is huge…[UWRF] has been preparing for this for three years,” Brandt said. “Everyone should attend [the open forum].”

•Senate decided to deny Greek funding and also to re-evaluate all requests for annual funding.
“[Senate] should not be funding any Student organization event or activity that is deemed a recruitment of members, selection, marketing or promotion of an individual group or student organizations,” according to the UW-System policy.
“We will be following [UW System policy] and looking more closely at [all organizations] in our budget,“LDPB chair Mike Defenbaugh said.

•A motion to provide additional funding for a graduation issue of the Voice was introduced.
“It’s a neat way for students to reflect … and I know families enjoy it,” Student Voice Editor Sarah Packingham said.

•Monday at 7 p.m. the Student Senate Election Forum will be held in the UC Ballroom. It will be an opportunity for candidates to “get a few minutes to talk about themselves … then open [the forum] up to questions from the Students in attendance,” Sen. Dan Mahr said.

• Student Senate Elections will be held online April 22 and 23 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Senate meetings are held Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in the Willow River Room of the University Center.