Eaton Computer Lab temporarily inaccessible to public

Eaton Computer Lab, which in the past has been a public resource, is now temporarily restricted to individuals within Tufts, according to Director of Communication and Organizational Effectiveness for Tufts Technology Services Dawn Irish.

“Access to the Eaton lab has been temporarily restricted to Tufts students, faculty and staff in order for the university to review software licensing requirements and the physical security of the space,” Irish told the Daily in an email.

According to an employee at the lab, who wished to remain anonymous, the new policy is disruptive for residents who rely on Tufts resources.

“This one woman comes in every other night and uses Photoshop to do these projects,” the source said. “She doesn’t have the program at home, and she’s thanked me several times because she says it is so useful.”

The anonymous worker added that she believes this policy change reflects poorly on Tufts’ relationship with the outside community.

“Having an open campus and open resources sets a good precedent for how we see us in a relationship to the rest of Medford and Somerville,” she said. “[This policy] is reinforcing the Tufts bubble instead of allowing us to share our resources.”

Irish said the university administration did not intend for this view to be a consequence of the policy change.

“Continuing to have a strong partnership with local residents remains a priority, but the university must ensure that we are compliant with our contracts,” Irish said. “We realize that this change has had an impact on some local residents and we’ll actively work with anyone who reaches out to us to locate potential resources.”

Irish stated that, during the time that Tufts is reviewing licensing agreements, facilities at Tisch Library will remain open to the general public.

“While we review our current contracts to ensure compliance, Tufts will continue to make non-restricted computing resources available to the public in the Tisch Library and provide guest wireless to anyone who visits one of Tufts’ three Massachusetts campuses,” she said.

Beyond reviewing software licensing agreements, the university will use this time to assess the safety of the space and, if necessary, make improvements, Irish said.

“The Eaton lab is open until 4 a.m. [on weeknights] and staffed primarily by student workers,” she said. “We know that Tufts students appreciate the extended hours of the facility, and we want to ensure they have a safe environment in which to learn, study and conduct research.”

The anonymous source stated that, up until this point, she has not experienced any safety issues due to non-Tufts individuals in the lab.

“We’ve never had a problem where it’s an outside person who is causing any sort of issues,” she said.

According to another anonymous employee at Eaton, many of the lab computers contain expensive software programs, such as MATLAB, Adobe and SPSS, that can be hard for community members to obtain.

“It’s another resource in the community,” the source said. “I know that [Eaton] Computer Lab in particular has many expensive computer programs on it that would normally cost up to $100 to buy on your personal computer.”

The Eaton worker urged the Tufts community to continue considering the views of local residents in policy decisions.

“I would hope that other Tufts students, not just the workers but anyone who cares about Tufts culture and the attitude we have towards the neighboring community, would feel passionately about this,” she said.