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Printing Pandamonium: Ignoring Students’ Complaints

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I have been a student at the University at Albany for more than two years now. Like any school, the university has its issues and, while I, like everyone, have found those issues to be beyond irritating. However, I have never felt more slighted by the school, its policies or its priorities than I was following an incident this past Thursday.

I had gone to the University Library in hopes of printing out an assignment due in a few hours. I specifically went in the middle of a class block to beat the traffic and make my visit as quick and painless as possible. However, this proved impossible when I realized half of the printing computers were completely broken and the other half were seemingly operating at minimum speed. Lines were forming in the otherwise quiet and empty library and no one seemed to care.

For half an hour I darted back and forth between the only three working computers only to exchange stressed, angry looks with the others waiting for the same service. This wasn’t anything new but I was disturbed that the obvious issue congesting the building didn’t seem to move the needle whatsoever on the library employees.

At one point, I found myself next to the IT help desk, where students were lined up waiting for assistance. At this moment, I noticed an IT student employee slip away from the desk and towards the doors leading downstairs. A friend of his, evident by their first name basis relationship came up to this anonymous employee and said “Dude the printing computers aren’t working.” In response to this, the employee shushed his friend, as though the secret wasn’t already an open one, and then stunned me by telling him he’d take him to the back of the office where the workers had their own printer. Seeing an employee decide to give special treatment rather than address the issue for everyone I asked “What about the rest of us”, and was ignored.

Moments later, a young woman asked this same IT employee how to use the machine that would put a dollar on her card for printing. When the student began showing her what to do, I informed the women that the printers were not working and that she was about to waste a dollar that could be put to better use, advice she seemed happy to receive but in the same breath angered the employee who demanded to know what I needed. My response was simple: I told him that when students pay for something, they should expect it to work.

To be clear, I have a printer in my room at home, right next to my bed. It was my own forgetfulness that necessitated a trip to the library in the first place. But when students rely on these services, half the equipment being totally disabled just doesn’t cut it, especially when the University makes us pay to use them.

I am also aware that the particular student who I came in conflict with could not possibly be expected to repair the downed technology at that minute. That wasn’t what I was asking. I took issue with the library’s obvious apathy towards the situation, it’s employee’s willingness to give a friend special treatment rather than attempt to fix the problem for everyone, and then its willingness to take money from a student when they knew she wouldn’t get what she paid for in a timely manner. The least that employee could have done was inform the young woman that it may be best to wait for right now, or tell her they’re experiencing a high volume of students with crippled equipment, which was the case.

UAlbany, like all centers of learning, should exist only for the sole benefit of the student body. Continuous issues with the WiFi, the dorm conditions or the device functions places the students at a disadvantage and, while some professors understand that things happen many will not be lenient regardless of circumstances. When it comes to services we are expected to pay for with money from our own pocket, on top of the astronomical amounts of money each and every one of us have already funneled into the school, the least we can expect is that they be operational when we need them.

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