I hate charging departments back for services or equipment. Yet we do it. It bothers me deeply that we cannot afford to provide important services, hardware, and software to people. Yet it’s the truth. And I am loath to have yet another conversation where I simultaneously say that we support the mission and business of the College and that someone else has to pay to play. But I do.
There are institutions that charge back, like we do at Muhlenberg, for add-on services and items such as software beyond what we currently offer or hardware beyond the standard, such as second monitors. There are institutions that charge back for any kind of service at all. We are fortunately not the latter, but I am finding us pushing back more and more often requesting at least some funding from departments. The line which we’ve drawn between standard and extra has stayed still, but the demands of faculty and staff have changed.
For instance, we still charge for a second monitor, but more and more users are requesting this option. We upgraded all of our monitors to larger units just a couple of years ago (previously, we still had 17″ 4:3 units out there…) which has mitigated the challenges that users face considerably, but we still get a fair share of requests. Do we need to move the goal posts? Should we be budgeting in for a certain number of second monitors every year, until requests die down? Rather than asking departments to pay?
What about Adobe, the boogeyman of software licensing (Microsoft is more complex, but I think Adobe is tougher on the actual users)? It is incredibly expensive to provide Adobe on any large scale, and in fact many institutions, due to changes in their licensing model, now offer fewer seats today than they did before. Muhlenberg’s demand doesn’t come close to justifying (and our budget wouldn’t accommodate) a campus-wide license, so departments pay. Need Acrobat? Need Creative Cloud? What’s your account number so we can transfer the charge?
There isn’t an answer contained somewhere in this blog post. I’m just frustrated at not being able to meet the needs of users more effectively. Maybe, as I said, it’s time to move some targets – remain strict, but draw a new line to create a new demarcation.