ITM student Zeeshan Gauba is starting an online petition against the mandatory extra fee for laptops in the ITM program.

Photo: Allan Woods.

ITM students launch laptop petition

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By Matt Radford

Information Technology Management students fed up with the mandatory cost of leasing laptops are fighting back with a petition that will be posted online by the end of this week.

The students will be asking for lowered fees, the option for students to buy their own laptops or to have the extra cost be covered by OSAP.

At the heart of the issue is the $1,480 additional fee that ITM students are required to pay each year to lease an IBM ThinkPad laptop computer from the university.]That translated into almost $6,000 for use of a computer that students won’t event be able to keep once the program is finished.

With OSAP refusing to provide any coverage for the new mandatory equipment, and only 45 bursaries available to subsidize the computers for the 450 ITM students, many are trying to figure out how they will afford this added cost.

“It’s simply too much money,” said first-year ITM student Zeeshan Gauba, who is organizing the petition.

“They [the laptops] are going to help us, but the cost is too high.”

Last Thursday, Gauba held the first of what he said will be many meetings with fellow ITM students to organize to fight the extra fee.

“You have to be proactive and need as much support as possible,” said Gauba.

“We are paying nearly six thousand dollars for the use of a computer we’re not even going to walk away with.”

Ken Marciniec, vice-president education at RyeSAC, said he also feels the amount students have to pay for the laptops is far too high.

“The university buys computer labs for the courses that need them, why won’t they buy laptops for the courses that need them as an asset?” he said.

“This is a way for the university to save money. It’s a back-door tuition fee increase.”

Ken Grant, director of the ITM program, agreed that the cost is hard on students. He said, however, that the university has paid for everything except the individual machines and has already spent over $1 million on the new program to do so.

He also pointed out that similar programs at other schools charge more than the $1,480 being asked by Ryerson. At Sheridan College, Grant said that students are required to pay between $1,600 and $1,800 per year to lease their laptops.

“I ask that students understand all of the issues before they make a comment that this is ‘silly’ or a ‘rip-off,’” said Grant.

Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse added that he feels the price is justified because students signed up knowing how much the laptops would cost.

He said all of the students were sent a letter stating the additional cost when they signed up for the program.

“They made the decision [to come to Ryerson] with the full knowledge of the situation,” he said. “It’s quite clear. Nothing this good comes for free.”

Despite that, many students still feel the cost is unreasonably high. Anne Freidin, a first-year ITM student, said she is very frustrated.

“Part-time students have the same courses, labs and stuff as we do and aren’t required to have laptops,” she said. “It’s not necessary.”

While students like Freidin and Gauba are outraged by the cost of the laptop program, most see no problem with needing the computers for school.

The lack of options, however, upsets them. “If I could purchase or finance it through a store or IBM directly I would do it,” said Gauba.

Grant said such a solution would not be possible. “We have to make sure there are common configurations for all students. [If you buy from different vendors] you’ll get different versions of the operating system, and things won’t work quite as they should,” he said.

He added that buying the exact computer needed for the program would cost close to $4,000.

Students in the program are already complaining, however, that their university-issued computers are having problems such as not printing or not connecting to the Internet.

“We’re in the first week of launching a totally new program,” explained Grant, adding that only a few students had reported problems.

The petition will be posted at www.onlinepetitions.com and there will be a direct link from RyeSAC’s Web site.

In addition to the petition, students can also elect their representatives to the 2002/2003 ITM student council later this month.

Gauba and his group will also be meeting again this week and say they will keep fighting until the cost goes down or the policy forcing students to lease from the university is changed.

“I’m a first-year student, I have four more years to go,” said Gauba. “I have enough time to fight this issue.”

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