Ctrl shift V: Tech Access at Hamline

The responsibility for student long term technology loans passes from Hamline Information Technology Services (ITS) to the Dean of Students office.

Lydia Meier, News Editor

Hamline student Jaraide Dossavi, using a
computer in Bush Memorial Library (BML). (Chetha Ny)

At the beginning of the pandemic, Hamline began offering semester-long loans on technological equipment, including Chromebooks and mobile hotspots, through Information Technology Services (ITS) within the Central Service Desk (CSD) in the Bush Memorial Library.

Two years later, ITS no longer has the funding or staff to support long-term loans, Terry Metz, Hamline’s University Librarian and Chief Information Officer, said.

Now, long-term loans will be sourced through the Dean of Students’ (DOS) office, although the change was not communicated to Hamline faculty or students.

“With a much smaller library of long-term tech rentals available through the DOS office, we are able to manage those resources more efficiently and work with students more directly,” Katie Peterson, Administrative Assistant to the Department of Student Affairs, said. 

Students will be able to check out Chromebooks and wifi hotspots for up to one semester.

Short term loans are still sourced out of the library CSD by ITS, and can be checked out online for up to two weeks, although Metz notes that the exact length could be subject to change.

Before 2020, ITS only offered short-term technology loans, but when the pandemic hit, this changed. 

“They shifted to include long-term rentals… due to the sudden tech needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to online classes,” Peterson said.

With the help of federal funds through the CARES Act, Hamline loaned over 70 wifi hotspots and Chromebooks to students during the peak of the pandemic, Metz said.

Hamline senior Anthony Meng checked out a wifi hotspot to help with their work responsibilities.

  “I was able to check out a Chromebook though last year when the computer I bought ended up dying, so that is a positive that I got through the library,” senior Kayden Rinzel said.

Other students, like Ellie Liew, use campus computer labs when their technology access changes.

At this point, ITS is no longer able to continue the technology loan program at the capacity that they have operated under for the past two years.

“We want to do whatever we possibly can with the means that we have available to make it possible for students to be successful. But there are sometimes limitations of resources and time and space,” Metz said, noting recent staff resignations at the library.

The discussion to transfer long-term loans away from ITS began in January 2022 between Metz and Dean of Students’ Patti Kersten and continued over the summer with Interim Provost Andy Rundquist. 

“At least right now, the decision was made, it’s not Hamline’s responsibility … to provide sort of across the board internet access to students when they aren’t physically on the campus,” Metz said.

Hamline Anthropology Professor Valentine Cadieux tries to keep sustainability in mind. 

“This week’s teach in, I think, has had a lot of really salient commentary on the question of what tech equity looks like right now, and why it’s important — and, at the end of the day, it’s yet another reminder of the need for systemic, structural change (i.e. public funding for education). I’m sympathetic with the challenge of trying to work around the edges: the loaner chromebook program seems like it was a worthwhile pilot,” Cadieux wrote in an email to the Oracle, but acknowledged that she was mindful of the environmental impact of technology. “We have, as a larger culture, not even TRIED to deal with the issue of e-waste (the percentage recycled has plummeted in the last few years, from 20% to less than 13%, and all of that is already dramatic DOWNcycling). The most hopeful tech equity projects I’ve seen have come from the repair movement, with people scrapping together totally usable machines from what’s wasted. This takes people power — but it’s such a huge problem that it seems like there could be funding for this. Imagine having a lab where we were all learning how to make our own good enough computers?”

Off-campus wifi isn’t the only technology issue that Hamline students see. The Oracle spoke to 11 students who mentioned campus wifi when asked about their experiences with technology issues in college, including junior Katie Morris.

“The problem is the frustration that comes with the internet not functioning properly. I’m not a financial advisor nor do I claim to know what Hamlines [sic] funding goes to, but I thought that for how much tuition is the internet would be readily available and accessible for all students regardless of which building you’re in,” Morris said.

ITS checks multiple wifi points across campus “routinely,” Metz said. He recommends that students contact the Central Service Desk or fill out a ticket online if they experience issues with Hamline wifi.