UC Irvine students in the School of Engineering created a petition last Tuesday urging the Dean of Engineering, Gregory N. Washington, to bring back the computer labs that were previously situated within Engineering Hall.
The petition, circulated by Care2, a social networking website dedicated to connecting activists, notes that a single-room computer lab provided by the dean in lieu of the ones located within Engineering Hall is an inadequate replacement.
“UC Irvine engineers heavily used the EH computer labs. During previous finals weeks, they have been constantly packed,” reads the petition. “Without these labs, UCI engineers are lacking [an] adequate place to study and succeed in their major.”
For several engineering students at UCI, their academic success has relied heavily upon their access to the computer labs. In addition to providing students access to specialized software not available for installation on personally-owned laptops, they are commonly used by students completing their senior design projects.
Callum Lamb, the senior mechanical engineering student who started the petition, notes that the removal has created unreasonable circumstances for students to be productive on campus. Due to the proximity of the computer labs by his classes in the Engineering Hall last year, Lamb would spend periods in between classes studying and getting homework done.
“It’s effectively discouraged me and my fellow students from being able to study in-between class and using our time well, and in an intensive major, like engineering, that’s a lot of time lost,” said Lamb. “If I’m losing one or two hours a day, that builds up.”
Prior to the removal of the EH computer labs, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering (HSSOE) housed a total of six instructional computer labs, four of which were located in the Engineering Hall alone.
All four of the EH computer labs, which housed 24 desktops and a TA station each, were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only closing for university holidays and winter break. Before being removed, the EH computer labs provided approximately 48 percent of the 202 desktops that were available to engineering students.
The two other remaining computer labs in the HSSOE, located within the Multi-Science and Technology Building (MSTB) and the Engineering Computer Trailer (ECT), do not offer the same amount of resources or accessibility as the ones in the Engineering Hall.
The MTSB computer lab offers 60 total desktops and one TA station, but opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. throughout the week, at 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and all day on Sundays. Although the ECT computer lab is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it only offers a total of 46 desktops.
To offset the loss of the EH computer labs, a replacement has been created in Natural Science I, but only 24 lab computers are available and building hours are from 7 a.m. 7 p.m. Monday to Fridays.
To date, the petition has currently accumulated 163 signatures towards its goal of 1000 signatures.
“EH was a second home to me, where I’ve spent sleepless nights and countless hours working on assignments that usually require software that is only available on these computers,” said Joanna Vasquez, a signer on the petition. “Without EH computer labs, it’s much harder for students who commute or who don’t have a laptop to download the softwares (sic) that many of the engineering courses require.”
A formal statement has yet to be provided by administration explaining the sudden removal of the EH computer labs. In the meanwhile, several students like Lamb have been forced to decrease the amount of time they spend on-campus studying in search of a more practical solution.
“Engineering students and students in general at UCI are expected to put in a ridiculous amount of work and a ridiculous amount of economic commitment to their university experience,” said Lamb. “We’re expected to pay huge amounts of money, we’re expected to effectively spend four years of our life studying; the least we can expect in return is a place to do that on campus. That’s a very minimal expectation.”