Tech Commons to close this summer, move more services online

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Tech Commons, the University’s technology support center housed in Gelman Library, is shutting down this summer.

Tech Commons, the University’s technology support center housed in Gelman Library, is shutting down this summer, officials said.

Ed Martin, the deputy chief information officer in the Division of Information Technology, said the center would close as part of a switch to focus more on mobile support. The IT division is working to “focus staffing resources,” according to information on its website.

Beginning in the fall semester, the computer support and warranty repair services of Tech Commons will be moved to the Buff and Blue Technology Center on 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., Martin said.

Officials cut about 40 staff positions from the libraries, technology, student affairs, safety and security, and treasurer’s offices last year as a result of budget cuts to the central administration.

The cuts were part of a larger plan, announced in 2015, to slash the budget of each central administrative unit by 3 to 5 percent each year for five years.

Students and faculty will still be able to receive support for Wi-Fi connectivity issues, password trouble and account support through an online portal after the center closes, Martin said.

“We are working on a comprehensive communication plan to help students, faculty and staff find the right help.”

He said the IT department plans to provide walk-up technology support services at Colonial Inauguration and during move-in and move-out periods, but details had not yet been finalized.

He added that the division also plans to establish an appointment-based, in-person service station next year, and that the location of this will be announced before the start of the fall semester.

“We are working on a comprehensive communication plan to help students, faculty and staff find the right help,” Martin said in an email.

Tech Commons currently provides walk-up support to students, faculty and staff in the basement of Gelman Library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

James Harnett, the director of information technologies for the Student Association, said in an email that the SA would work to ensure that students’ technological needs are met after the center closes.

“It’s important for students to have access to on-campus technology resources,” Harnett said. “The SA will advocate for alternative solutions if we feel the changes are adversely affecting students.”

The implementation of a more mobile service system seems like a sensible transition that can provide quick technical assistance to students, he said.

“Online services give students the option to seek help without physically showing up to a specific office,” he said. “If issues previously solved in person can be adequately resolved online, it’s a tool that should be implemented.”

“I think if it moves to the Buff and Blue store a lot less people are going to go.”

Harnett said that the SA is not currently pushing for changes, but student leaders would talk to officials if they noticed students were being negatively impacted.

“If we hear from students that the University’s changes for computer repair services aren’t working, we will sit down with administrators to make sure student voices and concerns are heard,” he said.

SA President Peak Sen Chua said in an email it was important for students to have easy access to technology support, but he declined to comment on the possible effects of closing Tech Commons.

“GW is a world-class University that utilizes technology each and every day,” Chua said. “From Google Drive and BlackBoard, to interactive course modules, tech support to students is critical in ensuring the best experience with technology here at GW.”

Joe Meyer, a student who used Tech Commons to rent out an adapter for his PlayStation, said having the hardware services in Gelman Library made Tech Commons an accessible and convenient location for students. He said the change in location may affect how many students are able to get in-person technical support.

“I think if it moves to the Buff and Blue store a lot less people are going to go,” Meyer said. “A lot of people probably won’t even realize that Tech Commons isn’t in Gelman until they go down and see that it’s not there.”

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