ASUC Senate places student technology fee referendum on ballot

Access to Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Suite would be included in the $51-per-semester student fee.
Xuantong Wang/Staff
Access to Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Suite would be included in the $51-per-semester student fee.

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The ASUC Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday night to place a fee referendum on the spring ballot that would charge students $51 per semester to pay for software and technology initiatives.

The money from the Student Technology Fee Referendum — more than $3.6 million per year — could be used to continue contracts that provide Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office software to all students, as well as fund other student technology services. The referendum, established through Senate Bill 35, will be voted on during ASUC elections April 8 to 10 and, if passed, would be effective from fall 2014 through spring 2021.

In 2011, UC Berkeley paid for Creative Suite and Office for student use with one-time discretionary funds to last for two years, with the understanding that if the contract were to continue, students would need to pass a fee referendum.

Since the program was introduced, Office has been downloaded about 40,000 times and Creative Suite about 56,000, according to Benjamin Gold, the communications manager for the campus chief information officer.
“The number of downloads paints a fairly positive picture,” Gold said. “The true measure will be if the students vote the fee in.”

Some students, however, have cited concerns about the cost of the fee. UC Berkeley freshman Amrit Ayalur said he’s downloaded Office through the campus, and while the fee is “a good idea in theory,” he isn’t in favor of making people who wouldn’t use the software pay for it.

Should the referendum fail, neither Creative Suite nor Office — which can cost $1,900 and $400 for consumers respectively — will be available to students after August. Only a few other universities, such as Indiana University, offer these packages to all students.

“In the event that this fee doesn’t pass, I’m prepared to pressure the (campus) harder to find solutions in making the resources that this fee provides still accessible,” said ASUC President and bill sponsor DeeJay Pepito in an email.

The bill states that about $17 of the fee would be returned to financial aid to help offset the cost for eligible students, and up to $20 would be used for software packages like those from Adobe and Microsoft. The remaining sum would be used for other student technology initiatives such as a “technical skills training program,” as suggested by Pepito in an email.

UC Berkeley junior Greicko Almoite said his architecture classes require Creative Suite software. He said he wouldn’t be against the referendum but only if it went beyond just Adobe downloads.
CalSERVE Senator Caitlin Quinn said she felt students had the right to make the ultimate decision.

“I want students to think critically about these fees and start a larger conversation about what students should pay and what the (campus) should pay,” she said.

Contact Sahil Chinoy at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @sahilchinoy_dc.

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  • Iain Riule

    Office does not cost $400 – office home and student costs $140. Source – the Microsoft website. Or if that’s too much research effort, the 139.99 price is actually visible in the photo above the article! Sheesh, what are you learning at the Dailycal, to spout the [email protected] asuc tells you?

    • Sebastian Pramanick

      The version provided is Office Professional. This version costs $400. It includes things like Access and Publsiher not included in home and student.

  • As if students did not have enough fees to pay. Does the ASUC Senate have their proverbial head up their ___s!

    • cal_guy

      The ASUC allowed students to vote on an issue. Big whoop. Do you have your head up your a**?

      • ucactivism

        Earlier this year, the ASUC ran a survey when they asked students how much they would be willing to pay for a technology fee. Not having a fee wasn’t one of the options. Biased much?

        ASUC Presidents have spent considerable time on this issue, and will continue to do so even if the referendum fails, based on Pepito’s quote in the article above. And for what? A package deal of software that is either (1) used by a small group of students in specialty programs or (2) replaceable by free alternatives. (Contrary to what some people claim, LibreOffice/OpenOffice can open MS formats like .docx, .xlsx, and can convert any document to PDF.)

        So I’d say students are right to be upset at the ASUC’s incompetence in this case.

      • cal_guy…the only one who has there head up their a__ in this scenario is you. Many students cannot afford any more fees particularly because many of them are taking out loans to pay for their fees. They then graduate with more debt to pay and few job prospects in this economy. But then it perhaps because of your youth, relatively rich parents who is paying for your education or the fact you have any foresight into the future that makes you such an idiot. In addition, why pay for Microsoft Word when Google Docs is both free and stored on the cloud?

    • Adam Ricketson

      I would agree, except that many students are already required to make these purchases by their professors. As with textbooks, that’s the core of the problem.

      The sad thing is that there are often free alternatives that have all the important functions of Adobe and Microsoft products (e.g. LibreOffice) — but we are forced into the Microsoft monopoly because we need to collaborate with MS-Office useres and M$ refuses to incorporate open file formats into their system. To make it worse, they regularly break the backward comparability of their products.

  • Paul

    Why pay for Microsoft Word when Google Docs is both free and stored on the cloud?

    • Guest

      +1 ..Google Docs can also be opened and edited on phones and tablets as well

    • formercalstudent

      Minus some functionality in Excel, there’s no reason to pay for MS Office. Docs has no version-incompatibilities, can be opened and edited on phones, and doesn’t require downloading/installing updates.

    • cal_guy

      The University already pays for it through bConnected! You may need Word though because lots of professors send out files in it to edit instead of a free format. Also Google Docs cannot do many of the more advanced features of Excel which I could see being useful for math/science/accounting/etc.

      • Paul

        Google Docs is fully compatible with Word files. As for excel, most students don’t use it or don’t need its advanced functionality. If they do need it to make their lives easier, I’m sure they can afford it. We don’t all have to subsidize it for the Haas students.