A dubious investment

A UC Berkeley initiative’s $500,000 plan to provide free Adobe software is questionable as to why it was devised.

Photoshop amateurs and creative designers alike may light up to hear that a UC Berkeley project is doling out $500,000 for students to have free Adobe software, but the news also generates questions, skepticism and confusion — why Adobe, why the expense and how will this serve as a sustainable service for the entire student population?

We recognize that Adobe software is widely used on campus. We are glad to see the administration providing educational and artistic tools for students amid budget cuts. But we remain baffled as to why this particular software was chosen, why scarce funds were allocated for this purpose above others and whether the program will be fully utilized.

Starting today, students can download the Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium software for free, thanks to the cost-cutting campus Operational Excellence project and its $500,000 plan. The aim is to provide students with an opprtunity to engage with software that is generally attached to a fairly hefty price tag.

Though the software will certainly be a boon for students who cannot afford the expense, it is unlikely that every student will use it or fully take advantage the package. Perhaps the campus should have instead invested in updating all computer labs with the software — a less expensive option that would still provide access.

We are also troubled by the one-year shelf life of the deal. The $500,000 will only fund the software for students during a one-year pilot program. If students wish to continue using the Adobe programming, they will have to vote for a fee referendum in the spring, meaning the former freebie would become another out-of-pocket expense for students.

The deal seems like a baited hook — getting students accustomed to using the software and then asking them to decide whether to discontinue a service they enjoyed or pay the campus more.

The campus should provide a more detailed, transparent explanation of the reasoning behind this investment, especially since it appears to be short-term. As a similar deal for Microsoft Office is on the table, we encourage the campus to use a more comprehensive gauge of what students want and need and to determine the most effective use of funding.