At work we have 6 computers labs that each consist of 17 or so computers, in a lab type setting. These computers are used for stuff like Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Indesign, and lots of other random stuff. These labs are shared between several classes, and lots of students. Each computer probably averages 5-10 unique users per day. As such, keeping the computers in decent shape, and “clean” is a bit of a priority. So, like pretty much every non-private computer space I’ve ever used, food/drink are allowed. These rules are, unfortunately, too often ignored. I wouldn’t say it’s the majority (it’s not), but it’s a number larger than zero, which is the problem1.
The consensus (from those that I have asked) seems to be that keeping food out of computer labs is the bane of every Educational IT professional there is. Most students are fine, and it’s never a problem, but the problem ones just do not seem to pay attention to signs, or materials that say “No food/drink”. And there seems to be no good consensus on how to address the issue.
We attempt to change out the signs for the labs at least once a year so people don’t get used to them and stop caring, but that still seems to make little-to-no difference. Some students just treat the labs like it’s their apartment. Including some instances of students bringing in pets (service animals are one thing, but these are just pets). What makes it even more frustrating is the faculty and GTFs don’t seem to enforce the rules in a regular, and consistent, manner. Some faculty have a no exceptions policy, and some just don’t seem to notice, or care. And GTFs are even less consistent… no doubt because they don’t think it’s their problem2. It also doesn’t help that some of our student employees don’t actively enforce the rule either. What I really don’t understand is that student’s don’t police each other. I wouldn’t want to work in a lab with someone eating food, or drinking, next to me. Either they’re making that computer disgusting should I have work on it later, or there’s the possibility I could be blamed for causing the mess, resulting in me being punished.
Of those that I have talked to that work in Edu IT (K-12, and Higher Ed), there were 2 distinct groups.
Now, we’ve tried MANY different signs. From straight graphic signs, to those that actually have wording, to even just posting the policy and repercussions5. None of them seem to have any better results than others, except that people tend to get used to signage, and it gets ignored after some amount of time. As such, we attempt to change out the signs every year (which, it probably should happen more often than this).
Really, there seems to be no answer. Most people are going to see the signs, or know the policies, and not eat/drink in the labs. Some people, though, will always be clueless by default, and wait for someone to give them a clue before caring. This probably explains many many more of the problem topics in society than just my rather trivial problem of food and drinks in the labs.
- This post is being made in reaction to me having to kick someone out of a lab for eating pizza at a desk that didn’t have a computer on it. While the students were in the lab when I sent out a warning to someone else who was drinking soda, these students did not actually receive the warning from me. Me kicking them out resulted in one of the students losing work, which I felt bad about, but regardless all doors into the lab spaces have signs clearly indicating that food/drink are not allowed. So while I feel bad about the loss of work, I do not feel bad about having to kick them out. And hopefully, they’ll never re-offend. [↩]
- this is an assumption, and has not been backed up with any actual interview of GTFs [↩]
- One person was actually wanting to get a copy of the signs we use until he heard me asking the question [↩]
- One person I spoke with says they just stopped enforcing the policy at all, and found that things got to a point where it fixed itself (students didn’t like working in squaller). I just can’t bring myself to that level. [↩]
- Repercussions have ranged from having your computer account disabled, to having participating faculty assign an immediate “F” to the current project/assignment at the time of the infraction [↩]