While waiting on help for a laptop issue this week at the technology help desk, I was reminded of my past interactions with technological help here at Brandeis. Two years ago, I wrote an opinion piece for The Brandeis Hoot about my experience working with Library and Technology (LTS) services to fix a technical issue I had been experiencing and the help (or lack thereof) they offered me. At the time, I felt that LTS was doing a poor job of responding to student needs, and that their customer service was a major roadblock for students to access electronic resources, especially those who had less experience with technology in the past. I remembered swearing off ever going to the technology help desk and declaring that I would solve every problem I had on my own (which sounded great two years ago, but a tad hyperbolic last week when I couldn’t access any of my assignments). The help I received last week, however, left my opinion of LTS significantly changed, and I feel the need to revise my comments from two years ago.
To preface any comments about LTS, I need to first acknowledge my general lack of technological skills; while I’m competent editing word documents or performing other computer-based tasks, I don’t have the knowledge necessary to solve many computer issues on my own. As such, I can only speak from the experience of an average computer user asking for advice in a realm outside my expertise. However, I think this is an important perspective to keep in mind, given how many students at Brandeis don’t possess advanced computer skills. While I’ve been lucky to have access to electronic devices for most of my adolescence, the rate of access to a computer is far higher among upper socioeconomic classes, and due to historic injustices this also creates racial barriers to technological access. If we, as a community, claim to care about social justice and inclusion, we thus cannot assume that students will all have the technological skills we might expect are common among millennials today. In fact, there are likely many students on campus who have weaker computer skills than I do and are more likely to depend on resources like the technology help desk for assistance.
As such, I wanted to share my story as an update to my earlier comments about the help desk and its impacts on our campus community. In contrast to my prior visit, the story of my most recent trip to the technology help desk was pretty dull. I was having wifi connection issues, the worker took my laptop, pressed a few buttons, changed a few settings and fixed it (see, I told you I’m not exactly great at troubleshooting). And to be honest, I was incredibly happy how dull my meeting was. Anyone working in customer service knows that some jobs are just never going to be happy—from waiting in line at the DMV to being on hold with your bank, there are some things you never have to do unless something in your life has gone wrong. The technology help desk is much the same way, as they only see people with broken or malfunctioning electronic devices; while some laptops can be fixed, some just can’t. The ideal, then, shouldn’t be to make the technology help desk a hip and happening party, but to instead minimize any anxiety that students might feel. In that regard, my visit to the help desk was perfect: short and to the point, while remaining friendly as well. I felt comfortable sharing my problems and was certain that, if possible, they would be fixed.
Two years ago, I declared that “I [was] certainly unwilling to head to the help desk if I [thought] I [could] figure” out my computer problems on my own. As it turns out, I couldn’t, and I’m glad that I got the chance to publicly revise my opinion of this major part of Brandeis life. Of course, it would be irresponsible to claim that one encounter with any Brandeis department would be the same as any other, and I can’t say for certain that every student will get as strong service as I did. Some of the reforms I’ve highlighted previously, such as ensuring the university educates students about technology in addition to solving problems, have gone noticeably unsolved. Yet despite these reservations, I’m personally excited in the direction LTS has been moving in the last two years and am excited to see where they go in the two years I have left here at Brandeis.