Proposed student fee would continue software contracts, fund technology initiatives

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During this week’s ASUC elections, students will vote on a $51 semesterly fee that aims to continue the availability of software programs and fund student technology initiatives.

The Student Technology Fee Referendum intends to continue funding contracts for software programs such as Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office, which would otherwise expire in August 2014, as well as other technology projects. The fee would be folded into the Berkeley Campus Fee and would be effective from fall 2014 to spring 2021.

If passed, up to $20 of the fee would be allocated to continue funding such software contracts, though the exact companies have not been finalized. In addition, $17 of the fee would be returned to financial aid, as required by campus policy, and $14 or more would fund technology projects and initiatives that would be approved by a committee. The specified divisions of the fee funds may vary slightly in the fee’s final form.

The proposed fee is modeled after a similar one at the University of Washington, according to Cassie Xiong, co-chair of the Student Technology Council. UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara already implement similar technology fees.

Some students are concerned the fee would be unfair because not all students would utilize these software programs — some of which, such as Adobe, require memberships that would expire once students graduate.

“These programs are for specific subsets, and not everyone will benefit,” said Pavan Upadhyayula, Student Action presidential candidate and senator. He added, however, that he supported the possibility of funding technology initiatives the fee would provide.

Likewise, Xiong said she wants students to focus on the initiatives the fee would fund, which could include improvements such as additional phone-charging stations around campus.

SQUELCH! Senator Grant Fineman said a large number of students download the software programs, and even if they don’t, they are still available. Creative Suite has been downloaded about 56,000 times and Office about 40,000 times since the programs were introduced in 2011.

Justin Kong, however, CalSERVE executive vice presidential candidate and senator, believes the campus — rather than the students — should push harder to provide such programs and services.

“Technological resources for the student body would be beneficial,” Kong said. “But there should be more effort with the administration and university to provide technological services instead of having students shoulder the burden.”

Despite this, others feel access to these software programs is a price worth paying.

“For my major, we need certain software programs, and if it passes, I think it would be helpful for people like me,” said Carlo David, a first-year sociology and film studies student.

The ASUC elections will be April 8, 9 and 10.

Contact Angel Grace Jennings at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @angeljenningss.