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Research Assistants Hold SINC Site Sit-in

From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 24 Research Assistants and Undergraduate students protested the proposed increase of Stony Brook’s technology fee at the Main Library SINC site.
Currently, the technology fee is $199.50, but Stony Brook University proposed a 35 percent increase in the fee for the 2011-2012 academic year, resulting in an increase of $77.50 for services, according to the Bursar’s website.
People gradually assembled in the SINC site, with about 30 to 50 people overall coming and going throughout the sit-in.  Research Assistants came to the SINC site to protest this increase because, as their flyer said, Google employees do not have to pay an internet fee to do their work, but Research Assistants, or RAs, have to pay a technology fee for doing their work.
“It’s not something that as an employee of a company you expect to have to pay for,” said Caitlin Young, a Reseach Assistant and Geoscience graduate student. “Technology is the cost of doing business now, so I trust an organization that I work for will provide me with internet, will provide me with paper, will provide me with all these little things because they expect me to be able to produce good work product and the university charging us for this is just unfair because they do not charge the faculty, they do not charge the adjunct staff, they do not charge the support staff, but they charge us as research assistants and we do the same level of work as everyone else.”
As part of the sit-in, protesters printed out flyers stating what they were doing at the SINC site, alternate SINC sites to use and how others can voice their opinions to President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., or Assistant Provost and Executive Director of Teaching, Learning and Technology Graham Glynn or through a Broad Based Fees Feedback Form online.  Some protesters wore red pins saying, “RA Union Yes!” and printed out their own work.  Others handed out their flyers to students who were on computers.
“As a research assistant we’re not using these facilities a lot.  Technology comes from our grants, so we don’t technically use SINC sites,” said Sarah Campbell, a Research Assistant and Physics graduate student.  “We’re not in classrooms that are being improved, so we’re paying fees for these facilities that we have no reason to use and in fact, our grants pay overhead to pay for these things, so we’re essentially being double billed.”
Young normally prints out her work in her office, but was printing at the SINC site for the sit-in.  She said secretaries are able to print out as much as they need to without having to walk to the library to do so.
This is not the first time Research Assistants have objected to being billed for what they do not use.  According to Campbell, Research Assistants sent Valentine’s Day cards to Stanley asking him to waive the technology fee and thanking him for waiving their transportation fee.
The proposal states that Stony Brook spends less on its technology fee compared to other SUNY schools and 20 percent less than the national average.  The increase would cover costs for existing services including salaries, the overhead rate, software and databases and aging infrastructure.  It would also cover new and expanding services, such as SBCapture, a system that records lectures; SBConnect, a web video conferencing system for students to work on projects together; and classroom renovations and furniture.
Jacqueline Nobile, a sophomore majoring in environmental humanities, sent an email at the SINC site voicing her opinion.  She said she would like to see proof of the SBCapture system’s popularity and what a possible reason for its popularity could be that class sizes are larger due teachers being let go, so students can’t hear what is said in lectures the first time around.
Nobile said she does not think it is necessary to access course syllabi online since Stony Brook already has Blackboard.  She also said providing support to students for mobile computing platforms including iPads, iPods and Android phones are not necessary according to Nobile.
Others feel services are not up to par with the increasing fees.
“There’s been an increase in fees without a relevant increase in services,” said Alison Baxter, a senior anthropology major.  “It just doesn’t add up.”
Jim McAsey, the Organizing Director of the Research Assistant Union, said of the sit-in, “I think we certainly got our message across that it’s not fair to charge these workers fees just to do their job.  I feel people were very receptive to our message.  I feel that we got our message across; the administrators hopefully, they reconsider their proposal to raise these fees.”

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