Students at University of Wisconsin–Stout are questioning the ethicality of the eStout laptop agreement. In Rule 13 of the agreement, it reads, “I [the student] am responsible for a $400 fee and may be charged a laptop replacement cost in case of theft, loss or destruction of the computer. Charges will be added to my University Account.”
This $400 fee has been charged in every instance of a stolen laptop. The only reason the fee is ever wavered is in the event of a student’s death. Susan Traxler, Stout’s chief information officer, said “The $400 fee is a deterrent fee…[that helps] to pay for the loss of the laptop.”
Most students agree that it makes sense to charge the student for the loss or destruction of a laptop, but if a laptop is stolen, that student should not be charged $400 for an unavoidable incident. UW–Stout student Vincent Strack had his laptop stolen and tried to get the fee removed from his account.
Strack, a senior and business administration major, had his laptop stolen out of his car on the night of Oct. 9, 2017. He reported his laptop stolen to the Technology Help Desk on Oct. 10. He also gave them the written police report about his stolen item. The Help Desk employees then issued him a replacement laptop.
On Oct. 12, Strack received an email from Joan Wahl, UW-Stout financial specialist, stating that he had a $400 fee placed on his student account. Strack did not understand why he was being charged a fee for his laptop being stolen. He emailed Wahl about the issue, which is when she pointed out Rule 13 of the eStout laptop agreement. Strack then met with Wahl and Traxler to discuss the fee and the problem with the policy. Strack expressed his grievances and explained that he felt that this system was wrong and should be changed.
Strack said, “I wanted to be refunded because this policy is wrong. [The policy] is set up to basically kick you when you are down.” In the meeting, Traxler addressed that this incident has shed light on the vagueness and problems of the policy and that they needed to work to amend it. Strack brought up the idea of tracking software as a way to help solve this issue. Traxler agreed that this was something that they could think about implementing.
After the meeting, Vincent Strack said that he felt unheard and he decided to email the Chancellor to further pursue this matter. He met with chancellor Bob Meyer and Joan Wahl on Dec. 8. Strack said, “The meeting was decided the instant I got there. […] They’re perfectly comfortable with losing a laptop and charging the student for it.”
Strack has also been charged a late fee on top of the $400 because he did not pay the fee in a timely manner. The Chancellor told Strack to contact his insurance company and that they could possibly help with the costs. Traxler elaborated that in the past, “A few students […] have taken their eStout contract to their homeowner’s insurance, in cases of theft, to see if it would pay the $400 fee.”