Laptops In Limbo Thanks To UIS Spending Cuts

Sep 3, 2019

University of Illinois Springfield
Credit Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Despite getting a 5 percent increase over last year’s state funding, the University of Illinois Springfield has announced a budget cut of up to 10 percent. The most immediate impact is the suspension of a program known as “desktop refresh,” which promises new computers to faculty and staff every four years.

Kristi Barnwell, a history professor and president of the union representing faculty, says this leaves her colleagues reliant upon equipment that no longer works.

“Some of them were supposed to be getting laptops so they could work from a variety of places. I have faculty who take their laptops to class, and their laptops won’t hold a charge for an hour and 15 minutes,” Barnwell says.

The two-year state budget impasse hit higher education institutions hard, and most campuses trimmed expenses wherever possible during those years. But that impasse was resolved in 2017. So when UIS introduced budget cuts last month, faculty were surprised.

“Ten percent doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve been operating on a shoestring budget for years,” Barnwell says. “What this really means is that brand new faculty, who’ve been promised computers when they come here, who have to teach online courses, don’t have computers.”

Derek Schnapp, spokesman for UIS administration, said in an email that the increase in state funding will be used for merit raises, and that the school’s Information Technology Services department can handle any computer problems.

Meanwhile, the faculty union has issued a demand to bargain.