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Central reduces computer lab help

Chloe Hildeman, Staff Reporter - January 23, 2013

Central Washington University previously had 24 lab assistants on campus. Now that number is down to four.

“There just isn’t a use for one in each lab anymore,” Carmen Rahm, assistant vice president for information technology, said.

Under the new lab system, the campus is divided into four zones. Each zone has one lab assistant who is expected to monitor every lab in his or her zone.

There were a number of factors that went into the decision to change from one assistant per zone instead of one per lab, Rahm said.

“Back in 1996, there were two main reasons for lab assistants,” Rahm said. “One is that most students back then didn’t know how to run a computer. The second reason was theft, which has ceased to be an issue.”

With the computer age in full throttle and more security precautions put into place, the original reasons for having assistants in the labs are obsolete and outdated, he said.

Another reason for the switch to the zone system is that some people felt the system was being abused.

“When I first came here eight years ago, I would hear ‘You should work as a lab assistant, you can just get paid to do homework,’” Rahm said. “We also had a lot of instances where the assistants weren’t properly trained.”

The funding for hiring lab assistants comes from the technology fee that every student pays. The money from the tech fee is managed by a council of students, who decide how it will be spent.

When there was an assistant in each lab, more than half of the total money from the fee was used to pay for lab assistants. Many people felt it was a waste.

“We asked the students and they said they would rather have other things,” Rahm said.

With the zone system, the amount spent on assistants has decreased by nearly 80 percent.

The money which previously went to paying lab assistants is now primarily used to pay for printing expenses and purchasing the latest technology, Rahm said.

Some of the spare funding also went into the development of the widely requested CWU Mobile app, which launched last January.

There has been little feedback regarding the change. Rahm said any negative comments he has received have all been from professors who prefer to have additional help in the classroom. The lab assistants themselves don’t seem worried about the increased responsibility.

“I’ve been here through all the transitions, so it really wasn’t that difficult,” said Sara Melton, senior public relations major and lab assistant.

“You just get used to the work, and it’s really not that hard.”

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