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Campus responds to free Microsoft Office package

After two months, students say they appreciate offer but few downloads indicate lack of campus awareness

More than two months after Computing and Information Services made Microsoft Office packages available for free to the student body, 480 packages have been downloaded, and administrators said few glitches have occurred.

Ravi Pendse, vice president for computing and information services, said he is happy students are taking advantage of the software. “I would love to see more (downloads), but I also realize it has only been two months, so it is possible that many people perhaps don’t know about it yet,” he said. “We want to do a better job of spreading the word.”

Leaders of the Undergraduate Council of Students partnered with CIS administrators to introduce the new perk for students, kicking off discussions about the initiative last fall.

“It’s important for CIS to make the tools that students need to be academically successful as accessible as possible. Microsoft Office does just that,” said Sazzy Gourley ’16, admissions and student services chair of UCS, who helped spearhead the initiative. Gourley said he was not surprised by the number of downloads, adding that he expects a jump in the numbers this fall. “I think we’ll see more usage of this when it’s advertised to incoming freshmen.”

“We put together a student focus group in December to test out a pilot version of the downloading process to make sure that it worked correctly,” Gourley said, adding that UCS advertised the download via social media and Morning Mail.

Feedback on the initiative has been positive, Gourley said, noting that the only complaint he has heard is that the downloads expire after graduation.

Students can each download up to five free Microsoft Office packages on their personal devices. The packages include Word, PowerPoint, Excel and other software programs.

Miriam Rollock ’15 said the free download was useful after her previous laptop got ruined. “These sorts of software packages are expensive, so it’s helpful for students to have this option,” Rollock said.

Connor Lynch ’17 said he also found the download helpful “because it’s definitely more compatible being able to save Word documents instead of doing it always on Google Docs.”

Some students said they felt the download could have been advertised more widely by the University. Hariz Johnson ’17 said he was not aware of the download. “I have Microsoft Office Starter installed on my computer, but it doesn’t have all the features of Microsoft Office, so I have to go to the ScilLi,” Johnson said.

Marco Hanna ’17 said he also had not heard of the download. “I’ve had Office since I got here, so it wouldn’t have helped me at all, but it would have been cool to know,” Hanna said, adding that he “should have been reading the Morning Mail.”

Looking ahead, UCS members have spoken with CIS representatives about making other software programs available for free, Gourley said, citing Adobe as one such possibility. He added that the University’s legal agreements with software companies could present a potential obstacle.

Addressing the possibility of adding more programs, Hanna said “Photoshop would be nice.”

“CIS has been amazing in cooperating with us on all the work we’re trying to do in UCS,” Gourley said. “They are definitely doing whatever they can to make as many of these resources as possible accessible to students.”


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