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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Information and Education Technology slashes budget 10 percent

Wireless service on campus, computer labs and MyUCDavis.edu: These are just some of the services Information and Education Technology provides to UC Davis.

The IET has been hard at work to maintain their core programs, but some services have been cut. Their overall budget was slimmed down by 10 percent.

“Maintaining an effective campus IT security program does remain a high priority,” said Babette Schmitt, IET strategic communications and planning director.

IET has been working closely with ASUCD President Joe Chatham on expanding wireless coverage on campus. The department is looking into innovative ways to work with other campus units to help cut costs.

Some program cuts will affect students directly, however.

Most visibly, IET reduced business hours at campus computing help desks, shortened computer lab hours and lowered the printing quota.

The Campus Computing Project’s annual survey found 67 percent of public universities cut their budgets by five percent or more. At UCD, the information and technology budget followed suit with their 10 percent cut.

An average large public university has roughly a $21 million IT budget, said founding director of the Campus Computing Project Kenneth Green. For UCD, budget cuts translate to over a $1.7 million reduction.

Green has seen higher education’s IT budgets cycle through low and plentiful times for the past 20 years.

“The problem is, there’s been no let up in demand as budgets are getting whacked,” Green said.

Many university budgets that saw 5 percent cuts this year are also facing mid-year cuts, which can cut up to 3.5 percent, Green added.

Most students, university faculty and staff expect flawless wireless access and flexible tech support hours. More recently, especially after tragic events at universities such as Virginia Tech, campuses are expected to have efficient online emergency notifications, Green said.

Services that usually take a hit within IT budgets include computer labs, computer support, help desk hours and infrastructure upgrading projects.

Furthermore, IT is not an isolated unit on college campuses. From the minute students apply to UCD to filing for graduation, computers and online services are essential.

“[We feel] entitled to [technology], but in the end there’s a cost to it,” Green said.

Computer science professor Matt Bishop specializes in computer security. Usually in budget cuts, the first thing cut are the people and support. With IT, cuts are often detrimental to the entire campus and university if the wrong people are cut – IT depends on more than just good technology, Bishop said.

“People are critical,” Bishop said. “Without people you don’t have security no matter how good your technology is.”

At UC Davis, there are many demands as to what IT should provide.

“The university’s mission is to put information out there, but we want to keep some things private,” Bishop said. “There’s a tension.”

SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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