Interesting times for IITS media labs

In a rush to remain modern, (IITS) technicians have been scrambling over the past few weeks on a refurbishing project of Concordia’s largest classrooms. As a result, the media labs at the Sir George Williams (SGW) and Loyola campuses were closed for the first month of classes.
“It’s because we’re giving priority to classrooms that the media labs have been closed,” explained Jessica Jodoin, a technician at the Loyola IITS.
The technicians have been working on a $1-million dollar revamping project on 60 Concordia classrooms, 12 rooms at Loyola and the rest around the SGW campus. Their work includes installing new LCD projectors, new slide machines, hook-ups for teachers’ laptops, as well as the usual updating of TVs and VCRs.
However, Jodoin said that IITS is two months behind schedule, understaffed, and competing with students for time in the classrooms. This did not leave IITS staff with time to tend to the media labs. “We have to run all over… they have to hire more staff. September for us this year has been a nightmare.”
IITS is the academic technologies branch of the university and is a service to the university, taking care of such varied needs as computer rooms, equipment depots for students and teachers, maintaining in-class equipment, setting up websites for classes and departments, and providing media labs for students at both campuses.
However there are fewer people to handle these responsibilities than last year. A source at the media labs in the Hall Building, who wanted to remain anonymous, said budget cut-backs have forced the facilities to get rid of 10 part-time employees during the summer. The source equated the labour lost to six full-time positions. Now there is a bare-bones crew of four full-timers and no more workshops available in video and sound editing.
Full-time workers at the IITS facilities at Loyola lost a total of 11 man-hours. Also, the total amount of hours per week that the media labs are open has been reduced by more than half.
According to Director of IITS Andrew McAusland, the money IITS has been free to spend on part-time help has been brought back down to its original budget of three years ago, from $200,000 to $10,000. “We need to make sure funds that go into this thing are funds that are correctly applied.”
McAusland had a different story as to what was the situation with the media labs during the first weeks. “No, they [were] not closed.” McAusland is also the Director for Academic Technologies for the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, and came into the IITS job seven months ago.
Media labs changing hands
There are two situations that throw cogs in the IITS’ wheels, the lesser of which being complications in plans to move the Loyola IITS to the second floor of the Central Building (CC) to give more space to the dean of students office. But what has more IITS technicians gossiping are the plans to transfer ownership of both media labs to the faculty of fine arts by January 2002.
“We’re putting them closer to the people who use them. This is a rationalization of the services,” said McAusland.
There are conflicting reports as to who ran the media labs during the summer. McAusland said it was a test period for the fine arts faculty, others said that was just a memo. Although fine arts assistant dean of academics Andrea Fairchild admitted that the majority of her students use the facilities, she would not comment on what was her faculty’s involvement with the media labs during the summer, nor on how the transfer process is going other than saying it was premature to speculate on the outcome.
There are also discrepancies as to which faculties are the clientele of the media labs. According to McAusland, only five per cent of media labs users come from faculties other than the Fine Arts.
Although Jodoin agreed that many of the students who use the facilities at Loyola are either fine arts or communication students, she added that marketing and exercise sciences students also use the equipment. Jodoin questioned what access students and teachers in other faculties would have to multi-media facilities if the Fine Arts Faculty were to take over. McAusland assured that all students would have access to the machines.
He added that moving the labs closer to the people who use them, administratively speaking, would allow for a greater degree of communication between the students’ needs and what services are actually provided. “Students come in with expectations that we’re having a hard time keeping up with [them]. We should not be responsible in saying how academics develop, and really that’s what at play here.”
However Jodoin said that IITS had to service students as a whole. “The media labs are where we know what students are doing and where we should be going. You lose that and you lose touch with what we should be offering.”
As for now the media labs have resumed services, albeit shorter hours. The Loyola and SGW media labs now run from 10 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.
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