January 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 17°F


Geek Squad

They don’t wear glasses or suspenders. There’s no sign of ink protectors in their pockets. But scattered in offices across campus, they’re still saving students’ and school computers one reboot at a time.

It’s Ithaca College’s own Geek Squad.

All over the school, more than 100 students working part time for Information Technology Services help students and faculty with their computer woes. Whether they are fixing laptops brought in by students, adjusting the projector for a professor in a classroom or helping to reset an expired password for Webmail, these students are answering the call for help and keeping the school happily clicking from behind the scenes.

Fresh from the move into the sleek new Job Hall spaceship-looking office, senior Federico Jimenez works under the bright lights at the long circular Helpdesk. Jimenez, who has been working for ITS for two years, types at one of the new Mac computers, ready to point people to the right department for their computer needs.

Jimenez said the new move from the Muller Center will help attract more people to ITS  and will ultimately help them to be of greater service to the college.

“It smells great,” he said. “It brings a lot of people to it. In Muller Center, it was a nice, small environment. We’re in an arena now, as opposed to just a room. And arenas — people entertain in arenas — so I will have even more fun working.”

Since the Helpdesk is only able to fix problems with school programs, such as Blackboard and Webmail and college-owned computers, the students act more as the face of the service group. Jimenez said their job is to get information about the problem, try to fix it first and then direct the person to the right place.

“We’re the first contact,” he said. “It’s mostly troubleshooting. We get a description of the problem, and then we kick it to the right department to get the problem fixed.”

Helping people isn’t always the easiest task, though, as Jimenez has found. He said he tries to add a dash of humor when he talks to people about their computer issues.

“When people get my name wrong I play with that,” he said. “‘No, it’s Fed — like the alphabet backwards.’ It takes two minutes, two seconds, really. Users just break down laughing when their problem is fixed.”

Not all the people who work at ITS have a lot of technological experience. Jimenez said he is more focused on having fun with people.

“I’m very user-friendly,” he said. “I’m not really computer savvy, but I can pick it up — it’s not astrophysics. I’m not the geek of it all.”

Not all of ITS has moved. Lending a hand to professors from their compact office in Textor Hall, the students working for Classroom Technology Support wait to answer the call for help at a moment’s notice. They aid teachers struggling with items used in class, such as projectors or smart boards.

Sophomore Ian Gaffney-Rosenfeld is one of the students who speeds from the office to classrooms all over the school. He said he is usually uneasy as he walks to a classroom, as he can never be sure if he will be able to fix the problem.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “You never know exactly what you are going to be walking into.”

Stepping into a classroom packed with students can be an intimidating experience for Rosenfeld, especially when there is a familiar face among the crowd.

“I often see friends of mine in classrooms, and that’s always a little bit embarrassing,” he said.

One work shift, he walked into a lecture hall in Textor and spotted a group of friends, who waved at him and taunted him jokingly with threats of “You better fix it.”

“[They] try to get me to laugh when I am supposed to be being professional,”  he said “But you get over it pretty fast.”

Despite the computer knowledge he has gained, Rosenfeld said he is still loyal to his audio-technological background.

“I am a geek when it comes to audio-visual equipment, projectors and stuff like that,” he said. “I guess you could call me a geek.”

From the office packed with Macs and PCs in the Administrative Annex, senior Romaine Isaacs works for Field Technician Services, tinkering with computers to fill requests from faculty to resolve hardware and software issues.

Looking at the complex parts in the computer, Isaacs, who has been working for Field Tech for three years, said this job fulfills his curiosity.

“I have always been interested in technology,” he said. “I am always fixing things. I like puzzles — solving a problem.”

Isaacs still gets stumped on the job, though. When he was given the task of getting one of the large monitors in the Peggy Ryan Williams Center to play a slideshow, something he could normally do easily, he spent more than an hour working on the project.

“I had to look [at the computer inside], then run outside to see if it was working,” he said.

When he got a full-time technician to help him, the problem was fixed in two seconds.

“I was shocked,” he said. “It’s kind of embarrassing, but I also learned a lot. Everybody just kind of laughed.”

He said spending so much time with technology may not suit some, but he is happy doing it. When asked if this meant he was a geek, he replied:

“I guess in the sense that it’s not what the average person does, in a way, yes,” he said. “I do like technical things, so if that’s what geek means, then sure.”