IN MARCH, as UCLA transitioned to online instruction and remote work in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of students, staff and faculty headed home. The exodus posed a big question: During such a dramatic shift in learning and working conditions, who would maintain UCLA’s complex network of online communications and internet access?
It wasn’t long before the online transition put a strain on UCLA IT Services. Calls for help in March and April were three times higher than a typical month. And since this was also during a hiring freeze, IT Services was really under pressure.
Then came relief from an unexpected source: volunteers from Sigma Nu, a fraternity that opened its Epsilon Pi chapter at UCLA in 1930. Facing this current crisis, the brothers wanted to help.
When Todd Weber, manager of Desktop Support, had put out the word for aid, he didn’t expect so much enthusiasm from one frat house. First it was one volunteer, filling in between lectures, then another and another. By early December, there were 10 Sigma Nu brothers working for IT Services between classes.
“It wasn’t by design,” Weber says. “Today they’re doing about 40% of the work that comes to our team. At this point, I don’t know if I could do it without them.”
Desktop Support, which pays students above UCLA minimum wage rates, has also hired two female students, adding diversity to a field once dominated by men. After completing their training, which included shadowing the students already working there, they jumped in.
“We’re just as capable, and we can bring new ideas and new perspectives to the work,” says Courtney McHargue, a junior biology major who is a member of the Delta Gamma sorority.
Hiring students was a stopgap, but their essential assistance has changed the culture of IT Services. “They have come through in a tremendous way,” Weber says. “I think this is a new normal for us.”