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Mixed feelings towards RA iPad rental program in first year

May 12, 2013

With the end of the academic year, Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, completed its pioneer year in the tablet-based program for resident assistants, or RAs.

Kathy Collins, the director of REHS, said about 300 iPads were distributed to RAs and intercultural aides from the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, last August.

She said the iPads were introduced as a tool to make RA duties simpler.

“The iPads helped streamline the process,” Collins said. “It really sped up our communication. [It] gave us quicker response time and service.”

Collins said MSU is not the first university to adopt the program. Collins had been familiar with the concept because of a similar program at the University of Texas, and she said much of the program has to do with familiarizing students with current technology.

“We are embracing technology more and more every day,” she said. “I want our staff to be familiar with using technology. We want to constantly provide a learning experience for our students and staff.”

When REHS distributed the iPads to students, they provided the tablet, a charger plug and cord, a case and a screen wipe/cleaner. When the RAs and OCAT aides received the iPads, they were required to sign an agreement that required them to return their iPads at the end of the academic year in the condition in which they were issued. Collins said REHS did offer the option of not accepting an iPad to the RAs and OCAT aides.

Collins said less than 20 RAs and OCAT aides refused to take the iPad because of the potential liability.

Collins said REHS is in the process of assessing the damages to the iPads that have been returned and issuing fees accordingly.

Paul Roosen, a former RA in South Wonders Hall and a supply chain management senior, said the damage fees were unfair and that REHS did not clearly say that RAs and OCAT aides would be responsible for any damage to the iPads when they were originally distributed.

“If we knew that we would be liable for damages, we wouldn’t have signed off,” Roosen said.
However, Collins said most of the iPads came back to REHS in excellent condition.

Journalism junior Aaron Jordan, who was an RA in McDonel Hall, said he thought the program worked well but used the iPad as a toy for the most part.

“I didn’t really use it for my RA position. They asked us to bring them to all of our training sessions. We occasionally used it there,” Jordan said.

Recent graduate Rama Gupta, another former RA at McDonel Hall, said, “I wasn’t very impressed with it. I think it was a perk but personally I thought it was a liability, because you break it, you buy it whether you wanted it or not.”

Jordan thought that the downfall with the program was that the iPads had to be returned at the end of the year.

Political theory and constitutional democracy senior Stephen Henninger, who was an RA in Case Hall, felt the iPads were a useful tool.

“We used them a lot in our building when we were on our duty,” Henninger said.

Collins said REHS will bring back the program again this fall.

“I believe that by using a tablet-based program we could contribute more to the sustainability effort for the university,” Collins said.

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