UNM is falling behind its peer institutions in a crucial area: technology.

Information Technologies and University Libraries and organizations across campus are scrambling for funding from the Student Fee Review Board.

Moira Gerety, deputy chief information officer for IT, said budget cuts in recent years have spread technological resources so thin that students and faculty may not have access to important research databases, equipment and computers.

IT is requesting $3 million in student fees, a nearly 1,300 percent increase from the $231,000 it received last year.

Athletics is requesting $3.5 million, about 85 percent more than the $1.9 million it received last year.

“In previous years we have asked ‘How many computers can we afford to replace?’” Gerety said in an interview prior to IT’s presentation to the SFRB. “At some point we are in danger of not keeping up … we haven’t had the funding (to replace all the necessary computers) in recent years and this affects our ability to provide academic resources for students.”

But SFRB Chair Katie Richardson said she is not sure if student fees should support IT. “Providing equipment-refresh costs at IT services is as essential as UNM providing sidewalks, but I don’t believe that should come from student fees because, for students to be competitive in today’s job market, we need to have an environment which integrates IT into our education, but that funding should be pulled from I and G (Instruction & General) Equipment Renewal and Replacement.”

Gerety said the increase in student fees will directly serve students in areas the administration may overlook.

“Five years ago, an administrator may have said wireless internet is optional, and for them that may be a perfectly reasonable statement,” she said. “But for students, things like wireless internet and power outlets for laptops in classrooms are expected.

The annual tech survey shows that students want more power, they need more places to plug in, and they want wireless Internet.”

Gerety said the fee charged by UNM is still significantly less than at other universities.

“The average IT fee per student at our peer institutions is $215,” she said. “Last year we only received $10. This year we are asking for … ($128.34) per student, which is still significantly less than our peer institutions.”

Martha Bedard, dean of University Libraries, told the SFRB that the research mission of the University will be affected if the technology is not updated.

“Access to electronic collections is essential to student graduation,” she said. “It is difficult to provide for graduate student research with … a limited budget.”

In addition to updating electronic storage, Libraries is requesting $100,000 to make Parish or Zimmerman available to students 24 hours, five days a week. Parish was open 24 hours, five days a week during 2009 and 2010, but Libraries was forced to cut hours following budget cuts, Bedard said.

Bedard said University Libraries currently serves 95,000 students during the week preceding and the week of finals, and 1.8 million students are projected to visit UNM libraries this year.