With the transition to online learning, Wi-Fi has become a necessity for students. But for Crown/Merrill apartment resident and third-year computer science major Kyle Benalcazar, Wi-Fi crashes are a common occurrence. 

“When [the Wi-Fi] works, it’s fast and gets the job done,” Benalcazar said. “When it doesn’t work, especially during important class times and videos, it’s very frustrating to have to refresh [and] rejoin.”

According to Bill Storey, Information Technology Services (ITS) core technologies director, on campus, some of the older student devices are incompatible with the configuration of the recently installed ResWiFi network. Students who reported Wi-Fi issues to ITS have been instructed to pick up free wireless adapters to ensure compatibility with the current network. 

These problems come at the tail end of a four-year effort to replace Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES) buildings Ethernet ports with a wireless network as part of the larger Telecommunications Infrastructure Upgrade project to upgrade wireless connectivity across campus. Storey said most complaints came from Crown/Merrill apartments, which had received the wireless upgrade over the summer. 

According to Storey, 90 CHES buildings have already been upgraded, and another 25 will be upgraded by September 2021. 

After multiple Wi-Fi complaints from students, staff in College Student Life, Student Housing Services, and ITS worked to address the issue. While investigating the ResNet issue, ITS purchased wireless adapters for the students experiencing issues and Stevenson Event Center was opened as a remote instruction location, Storey said. 

Students have been allowed to overstay their reservation if the Event Center capacity allows, according to Cowell/Stevenson Reservation Coordinator Collin Cowsill.  

“I do have ADHD, and I find that this space really helps me with a lot. That’s why I like coming here,” said Benalcazar. “It’s so much better for me to be focused here.”

The Stevenson Event Center is currently restricted to on-campus students, and can hold up to 40 people, with desks placed more than six feet apart from one another and accessible outlets spread throughout the venue. 

Illustration by Isabel Tran.

However, only five to seven students show up each day on average. Belisario reasoned that students’ preferences of working outdoors partially contributes to low attendance. The campus will continue to assess the usage and need for the space, Belisario said. Cowsill fears that the Stevenson Event Center might face closure if usage remains low.  

“We would really love to see the space be taken advantage of, because my fear is that if we don’t use it, we lose it,” Cowsill said. “And this is the only current potential academic space on the entire college campus. I mean, libraries aren’t even open.” 

The CHES is looking at expanding the space to all UCSC students as a possibility, especially for those who have internet access issues off-campus. Students need to be cleared for COVID-19 if the expansion were to happen, Belisario said.

The Stevenson Event Center and individual adapters are not long-term solutions for the on-campus Wi-Fi situation. Although Storey said that the wireless issue had been resolved by disabling the latest WiFi feature to enable compatibility, some students were disappointed at the campus WiFi. 

“The reason why we didn’t invest in a router or anything is because we didn’t want to have to pay. The Wi-Fi should be working here, it should be fast, it’s a university campus,” Benalcazar said. [Paying] more for something that should already be here […]— it doesn’t make sense to me.”