Come May 9, the College of William and Mary will lose a valuable resource many students didn’t know they had: the Tribe Computer Store. While Auxiliary Services plans to shift the store online through the Apple Affiliate Program, students will no longer have access to an on-campus Apple store. Given the thousands of College students who use Apple products and benefit from on-campus Apple support, the decision to close the Tribe Computer Store is questionable and unfortunate.
It’s easier to solve problems when you can explain them in person. The more physical distance between you and the person trying to help you, the more opportunity for miscommunication and confusion. The same applies to addressing computer problems; students may not even know what is wrong with their computers, and being able to show someone the problem makes it easier to diagnose quickly and correctly. Students may be tech savvy, but even they need professional help once in a while.
Having a place to bring one’s computer can make all the difference for already stressed students. A standard issue laptop is the lifeblood of the modern college student. It ensures efficiency, privacy and flexibility. A malfunctioning laptop can spell disaster for students; lost or irretrievable documents, kernel panics and cracked screens are just some of many debilitating, terror-inducing problems students may encounter — and which prevent them from doing their work.
Moving the Tribe Computer Store online will also mean firing the current student employees. Student employees at the Tribe Computer Store gained valuable technical and sales experience while taking inventory, processing orders and helping students and other Williamsburg residents troubleshoot computer problems. Employees also had flexible hours, which are essential to any full-time student. As Auxiliary Services closes the Computer Store, it should consider offering IT employment to the students who will lose their jobs.
In light of the Tribe Computer Store’s benefit to the community, we question why Auxiliary Services chose to move it entirely online. With or without an Apple Affiliate Program, students could already get educational discounts online or at any other Apple store. “Service requests through the AppleCare program will continue directly through Apple.com or at an Apple Authorized Service Provider,” said Vice President for Administration Anna B. Martin in an email to campus. The fact remains that students will not have a place to bring their computers immediately, and online requests will likely take longer. Auxiliary Services is replacing a direct service with an indirect one.
The Tribe Computer Store provided direct support to students with or without Macs and gave student employees valuable technical experience. There seems to be little added benefit to closing the store if it will inconvenience thousands of students by providing less direct service and depriving students of jobs. Hopefully, the online version will prove us wrong.
Áine Cain recused herself from this staff editorial to remain unbiased in her reporting.