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Challenge and Tech Support
July 15, 2010 - 9:08pm

I have had administrator (admin) rights on every computer at each institution where I have worked. Admin privileges grant a computer user the ability to install programs and to tweak the settings on their computer. For a student affairs techie, being able to install applications and/or customize a computer is about enhancing productivity and efficiency. When I get into a car, I have to adjust the seat, tilt the steering wheel, and move the mirrors. I am setting up the car to my specific requirements. Being able to do the same with a computer is a similar experience. Each user needs to be able to tweak their computer.

I have had several conversations about admin access with tech support professionals at the institutions where I have worked. Some tech support folks take umbrage to my request for full access while others are more than happy to grant me the keys to full control. I completely understand that limiting access is often a necessary step to protect a campus community from itself. Users with full control are not always ready to have the keys.

Recently, I read a tweet from a student affairs professional stating that they could not have TweetDeck installed on their office computer. According to their tech support person, Twitter was not something that could be used for work. The tech support person was making a decision about a program that can definitely be used to enhance a student affairs professional's electronic toolkit. There was not even space for a dialogue to take place so that the student affairs professional could state why they wanted access.

I think that the relationship dynamic that frequently exists between student affairs departments and the tech support units that support them is one of "us" versus "them." The main challenge is not that student affairs professionals need support, it's that they need to enhance their technology competency. Tech support departments can assist student affairs practitioners by becoming teachers. Instead of being reactive when something goes wrong, perhaps it would be best if ongoing trainings and workshops took place so that the campus community was better equipped to handle admin rights.

During the hiring process, student affairs departments really need to assess the technology competency of their candidates. Knowledge of MS Office and skill with email is not enough. How often do we ask about someone's knowledge and experience with regards to computer operating system fluency? Student affairs practitioners in 2010 need to have a relationship with tech support that is more holistically oriented. Tech support units need to challenge student affairs departments to be more technologically competent while simultaneously supporting new users who may need time to learn what it takes to be an admin.

Do you have admin access? How does your student affairs department assess the technology competency of incoming employees? Do you think that tech support units would be amenable to both supporting and educating?

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