Editors Note: This entire article is based on interviews with Janesh Nathan, Shaun Prakesh Stanley, and Terence Kong.
As mentioned earlier in the article here, a heated debate had occur during the 3rd Monash Student Council meeting between the President, Janesh Nathan and an Editorial subcommittee member, Terence. This article is written mainly to inform the students of Monash on what exactly had happened in regards to the discontinuation of the laptop learning services, starting from the beginning of the year. Hopefully any misconceptions which have surfaced will be resolved soon. Both Janesh and Terence as well as the Welfare Officer, Shaun Stanley were interviewed.
So basically, conflict arose in the 3rd Monash Student Council (MSC) meeting when Terence decided to question why Janesh did not ask for ‘hard copy evidence’ of the statistics which the Library and Learning Commons Committee had provided. Terence also asked Janesh why as the President of the Student Association, he did not challenge the LLC’s decision to discontinue the lending services, on behalf of the students.
In an interview with the President, he began his side of the story with how he came to know of the issue of the discontinuation of the laptop loaning services. At the end of December 2016, he was informed via an email from the Male IT rep of MUSA 2016 that the university had decided to cease the loaning of laptops to the students effective from the 2nd January 2017. At this point, Janesh felt that he wasn’t able to do anything as he had not stepped into office yet. He did, however, forward the email he received to the Welfare Officers and pleaded with them to look into the issue.
“Do note that this decision was a campus level decision, which means that all units and departments in Monash, were involved in the decision making. It was not just up to the LLC Committee”
From Shaun Stanley’s point of view, when they were informed that the laptop loaning services will be taken away, he arranged to have an informal meeting with the LLC head, Miss Isabelle where “she explained the figures on why the laptops were taken away, what they plan to do with the further renovation of the library and the entire situation.” He points out that he understood where the university was coming from. Shaun tells us that from their point of view, the laptops were being misused as majority of them were damaged due to misuse, dropping the laptops, spilling drinks, and other reasons. Some were also due to be decommissioned soon.
Thus, the library decided to take away the laptop loaning initiative and to mount the remaining usable laptops to the desks. Another point was that the 300 laptops would not be able to service all 7,000 Monash students, however by mounting them, more students would be able to use the laptops as they would go to the library, use it and leave. It is a better improvement compared to previously when the students would sleep with it (yes, people actually do that, apparently. Weird, I know) or carry it around campus but not use it. This new method maximizes the period of usage of the laptops.
However, Shaun did bring up to the admins that majority of the students were not happy at the turn of events. When the students came back from their holidays, the campus wide notices informing the students that there will no longer be laptop loaning services as of 2nd January, did result in the predicted outcome. Which per the President, is completely justifiable.
Shaun also spoke to the levels of management in Australia through a live stream and it was relayed that the Australian campuses do not provide laptop loaning services. The initial point of the services was to accommodate to the large number of students who did not have access to the desktop computers previously. However, as the campus grew in size, the library and its number of desktop computers did too. Since the laptops are mostly out of commission now, the management team decided to salvage whatever they could and mount it onto the tables, as the main reason the laptops were brought in was no longer valid. We’re currently down to roughly 100-200 laptops with a likely lifespan of 5 years.
Coming back to the President’s point of view, Janesh said that he refused to release a statement on this matter, at that point in time, as he did not receive an email and was not shown any hard copy evidence behind the reasons of the discontinuation. The administrators were also in direct contact with Shaun Stanley, who relayed everything he was told to the President. Even though he was briefed on it, Janesh did not want to provide incorrect information and prefers to get his facts straight before making a statement.
Following that, in Week 2 or Week 3 of the semester, Terence went up to the President stating that he had a few opinions to voice out. The first issue was in regards to the laptops; “what was the reasoning behind the discontinuation of the services?” Janesh replied in kind, asking for more time to get his facts right and promised to post an official statement on the MUSA page, on what had happened to the laptops. Janesh would like to emphasize that the question which was frequently posed to him, by the student population, was what happened to the laptops, not whether he supports the decision was or not.
The second issue brought up was the seat hogging issue. One proposal by Terence was to allow the library personnel the rights to move the belongings of the students after an allocated amount of time. Janesh however did not agree as he believed it would lead to many problems for the library personnel and that this would put the library staff under a lot of pressure. For example, theft, in the event that the personnel moved the students’ belonging to a box somewhere and left it where other students are also allowed access to them. Nonetheless, Janesh promised that he would bring up Terence’s opinions and concerns to the higher levels of management, but would like to solve the laptops issue first as the seat hogging issue would need a long term plan.
From Terence’s point of view, he believes that this sparked the initiative or commitment between himself and Shaun to come up with an idea to bring back the laptop services as it enhances the students’ academic progress and bridges the gap between technology and education. So he discussed with Shaun Stanley the approaches and steps which were needed in order to increase their likelihood of success.
Thus, emerged the Google forms idea which took 3 weeks to be approved due to the several meetings, with other departments and the President, on how to get the most number of feedbacks. Terence believes that it took as long as it did because MUSA had other commitments to address and they did not allocate enough resources to proceed with the form.
A few days later, in a meeting with Miss Isabelle, Janesh was informed of the statistics which were sent to all levels of management, as well as the MUSA and MUPA Presidents, at the end of 2016. Miss Isabelle then informed the President that though the laptop lending services will not be brought back, the university has decided to mount the laptops to the tables, in the two new zones. Janesh also brought up Terence’s suggestion to Miss Isabelle about alternatives to the seat-hogging issue but it wasn’t approved by her as it would cause a lot of problems for the library personnel. However, they did come up with a solution, to create a video based on this seat hogging issue, in order to raise awareness on this issue. He then informed her that MUSA will be releasing a statement on the laptop loaning services and the seat hogging issue, on Facebook.
When the official post was released, Terence was disappointed, as the two issues were combined in the same Facebook post. He said that the President and he talked about how they should separate the laptop issue and the seat hogging issue as they believed that each issue should be tackled separately. He also thinks that the Google forms were mispresented as the forms’ sole purpose was to collect thoughts, feedbacks and opinions on the discontinuation of the laptop loaning services and Terence believes that the President’s official statement on their Facebook page dictates otherwise.
Janesh also believes that feedback received from the statement was ‘rather interesting’ but was blown out of proportion as certain comments mentioned that MUSA wasn’t fighting for the students. He believes that the accusation isn’t fair as the Google form provided was to channel the feedback to the respective departments, so that the concerns of the students will be able to be made known. However, a compromise is being worked out between the university and MUSA.
In the 3rd MSC, Janesh believes that there was a misconception between the meeting he had with Terence in Week 2/Week 3 and the statement which was released on Facebook. Terence said that “If Monash recently can commit such misconducts over the past, without thinking of our welfare, I’m not surprised if they can do the same thing to us right now, with the laptop loaning services. Like I said earlier, they presented their data in an email but they didn’t present their findings in the meeting.”
Terence also said that he agrees with a student’s Facebook comment, that Janesh is not standing up for the students against the LLC, but only to a certain extent. He understands that the stakeholders had a robust discussion last year end to discuss the discontinuation of the laptop loaning services based on the sustainability and the maintenance cost of providing the services.
Terence would like to emphasize that he isn’t targeting the President himself but would like to criticize how Janesh is immediately accepting the statistics provided by the LLC, without asking for verification or evidence to support their data and he suggests that Janesh should show the student community the hard evidence.
However, due to the restriction of time in the MSC, Janesh informed Terence that should he have anymore concerns, they could have a discussion in his office, where the Welfare Officers were also invited. And they did, to which Terence then conceded and asked to be kept in the loop. However, the President would like everyone to know that “When a compromise is made, and if a compromise is made, it will be communicated on the MUSA official platforms, to all 7,000 students.”
Terence then reassures us that he will be in contact with the President and the Welfare Officers, to see what other steps can be taken as he is still unsatisfied with how the initiative was presented. “The fact that Janesh has obscured our vision to ensure its success, makes our journey even more troublesome.” This subcomm’s question was “What?” To which Terence replied with that his mission, along with Shaun is to bring the laptops back. He believes that there is a conflict of goals, where one party is hoping to bring back the laptops while the other party is trying to increase the effectiveness of the two new zones.
In regards to the seat hogging issue, Mohak, the Welfare Officer said that it may not be very effective to have campaigns. He suggested radio shows like having a live recorded show of what MUSA’s views are on the seat hogging issue and maybe to interview a few other students to get their opinions as well. Terence also gave a very constructive idea which is where “the student leaves a note telling the next student the duration that they will be away, after which the next student has a right to move their belongings aside”.
Janesh however believes that although it is a very systematic idea, it is not feasible as there may be commotion caused when the students’ belongings go missing. This would be a very messy problem as it would have to include security and replaying the CCTVs. He believes that it is the culture or a maturity concern and that it starts with us. So as The Golden Rule goes, treat others the way you would like to be treated.
However, the one of LLC members, the representatives of the School of Engineering pointed out that MUSA has a responsibility to carry forward the feelings to the admins. MUSA is now working on a compromise alongside the admins. Shaun also points out that one thing’s for sure, the laptop loaning services definitely won’t be coming back but a compromise will be made.
In addition to that, MUSA has conveyed the problem that the discontinuation of the laptop loaning services, will affect us/them in terms of the events as the laptops were previously borrowed to allow students to sign up for events at the booths. Thus, MUSA has been allowed 6 to 7 laptops for this sole purpose and the laptops are being kept in the President’s office. However, other MUSA members and student initiatives will eventually be allowed to borrow the laptops in the future.
Finally, Janesh hopes that students are able to give the benefit of the doubt and trust MUSA that they are trying to do their best with the available information, resources, energy and time. The laptop and seat hogging issues are one of the prevalent issues which MUSA is trying to work on but there are hundreds of other issues that thousands of other students have as well. But they will do their best to solve as many issues as they can. He also further inputs that “any constructive and helpful feedback is appreciated, just pop me an email or forward any useful ideas to the respective departments. So in essence, help us help you and we can do it together.”
Article by Stephanie Leng
Photo by Desmond Chin