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DeBartolo Hall lab to receive makeover

Marisa Iati | Friday, February 25, 2011

The Office of Information Technologies has removed the help desk from the DeBartolo Hall computer lab and is seeking student input about how best to utilize the space.

Brian Burchett, Manager of Technology Enhanced Learning Spaces at the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) said OIT removed the help desk because there was no longer a need for it.

“We weren’t really staffing that area,” Burchett said. “DeBartolo was built in 1992. We had three people who worked behind the help desk counter, and they were busy all the time with questions. Not many people had computers at home, and when they came to school, they had a lot of questions about really basic stuff.

Students nowadays ask a lot fewer questions, so it looks to us like we could cut back.”

Burchett said student employees did not lose their jobs as a result of the help desk’s removal.

“Last year, when seniors graduated, we didn’t let anybody go. We just didn’t replace all the seniors who graduated,” he said. “So the folks who worked in DeBartolo last year and were coming back were assigned to work in the [Hesburgh] Library or LaFortune [Student Center] this year.”

Burchett said OIT plans to remodel the DeBartolo computer lab in a way similar to how LaFortune’s was renovated.

“You can see the kinds of things that are in the LaFortune lab, and you can see the difference between the way it is and the way DeBartolo is,” Burchett said. “There’s not really any place to work in groups [in DeBartolo].”

White boards now stand where the help desk used to be, offering students an opportunity to suggest ideas for the newly empty space.

“It’s one way that we wanted to get some initial ideas from the students,” Burchett said. “When we did the LaFortune lab design, students played a really big part in the design process. We want to make student input in the DeBartolo lab design significant as well.”

Burchett said students have suggested both practical and funny ideas.

“Some people have said group study rooms like [in] LaFortune, some people have said more computers and more printers, some people say Linux computers, [and] somebody said they wanted a burrito bar,” Burchett said. “Somebody else said they wanted go-go dancers. The go-go dancers are probably not going to mix well with the Catholic character of the University.”

OIT has not yet decided what to do with the space, Burchett said. Staff members plan to create a conceptual design as a starting point so OIT can give the University an estimate of the project’s cost.

Burchett said OIT has given serious consideration to merging the computer lab with the adjacent lounge. OIT would add a variety of seating configurations so students could work in groups. 

OIT has also considered adding more printers to the lab so lines would be shorter in between classes, Burchett said.

Burchett said OIT is very interested in students’ suggestions.

“If students have a friend or a sibling that goes to a school that has a really cool computer lab and they want us to do something similar to one of those schools, we’d love for somebody to give us a website or take pictures and send them to us,” he said. “We really want it to be a space that students like and can feel like [is] their space.”

OIT is considering various funding options, Burchett said.

“We know that it’s going to be an expensive project, so funding is an issue, especially when the economy is not what we all would like it to be and the University has to be careful with its resources,” he said. “Because we know it’s going to be an expensive project, it’s probably not a project the OIT can fund on its own. We’re probably going to have to seek funding from other sources on campus.”

Burchett said OIT would not have an exact timeline for the project until funds are allocated. 

“I would hope that we can have funds allocated in the fall so that we could start the project in the summer of 2012, but that is definitely a goal and not real yet,” he said. “I think the key is if we come up with something the students really like, then I think the University will support it.

“The primary reason student input is important to us is students spend so much time there and we want it to be a place students really like.”