Platform Support Policy

The university recognizes that faculty have diverse needs for academic computing resources and wishes to provide centralized support whenever possible. This desire must be tempered with the recognition that university resources are limited, and not every request can be met.

In its centralized computing support, the university has attempted to maximize its resources by supporting certain standard software programs and operating systems. Since the university standards may not meet the needs of all departments, academic units that need nonstandard software or equipment have often found resources within their own unit or through grants. Natural Sciences in particular is an area that has specific needs; there the university has provided computer support separate and apart from the central computer services (Information & Technology Services, User Support).


For administrative uses (including administrative uses by faculty), the university supports only Windows based hardware and software unless it can be shown that another platform requires no additional resources or is uniquely necessary for an approved function. Such exceptions require approval of the Associate Provost of Information and Technology Services.

For academic and instructional uses, the university equally supports Windows and Apple systems. (The chart below details that effective equivalence of support.) When the costs of alternate Windows and Apple hardware or software are equivalent, no special justification for purchasing one platform rather than another is required. Whenever purchase or maintenance costs are significantly greater for one platform than for another, requests for the more expensive platform must be accompanied by a persuasive explanation of special academic need. (This simply reflects the general university policy requiring explanation of any equipment more expensive than a reputable alternative.) Special academic needs may exist under either of the following conditions:

  • Specialized software programs that meet important curricular or scholarly needs are available for one operating system but not readily available for others.
  • Equipment based on the requested platform has unique capabilities critical to a particular discipline.

Windows and Apple are the two most common operating systems. For academic computing needs, the university will support both of these systems with central resources from User Support and Natural Sciences. User Support provides support and training for standard software programs regardless of whether they use an Apple or Windows operating system. It is unrealistic, however, to expect the university’s centralized computer support service to be expert in a wider array of platforms and software programs. When faculty or staff choose to purchase nonstandard programs, they will need to arrange for support and training independently. Academic units, at their discretion and within the limits of their resources, may support desktop applications of Linux, Unix, and other systems as necessary for their faculty members’ teaching and research.

Detailed Categorization of Academic Computing Support (Windows and Apple)

The following table indicates the balanced approach to providing university support for Apple or Windows operating systems and equipment.

Support and maintenance issue Process for Windows and Apple computers
Purchase and sale of computers. User Support will order through vendor.
Repair of university owned standard computers on faculty and staff desks. User Support and Natural Science technicians will troubleshoot and attempt to repair standard university owned computers on site and will send those still under warranty and those unable to be repaired off site.
Repair of nonstandard university owned computers. Departments or faculty wishing to purchase nonstandard computers should also arrange for maintenance contracts.
Repair of personal computers (student, faculty or staff). The university does not provide repair for personally owned equipment.
Temporarily providing spare computer for broken University-owned machines. User Support will provide a loaner for emergency backup in critical situations.
Support for Standard University Applications (students, faculty or staff). Help Desk staff will provide telephone support and training for standard software installed on all university computers (e.g., Microsoft Office applications and Google Apps for Education).
Support for nonstandard software applications. Faculty and departments requiring specialized software beyond our knowledge base should contract for support with outside vendors.
Departmental Labs and Classrooms Computers in labs and classrooms operated for the use of students in a specific department is the responsibility of the academic unit. Repairs will be handled through User Support or Natural Sciences, but normal maintenance and support will be handled through the units. Requests for new equipment will be made by the academic unit and be sent to the Equipment Committee.

For additional detail organized by category of client served (e.g., students, faculty, etc.), consult the Support Information on the Help Desk website.

Approved by the President’s Council on January 11, 2000, revised August 2010.