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A student organization's view of why free software matters
Hampshire College distributes free software bundle to all incoming students
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Hampshire student and FSF campaigns organizer Kira shares the success of their ambitious project to help fellow students get started with free software. The achievements of Kira's organization, LibrePlanet/Students for Free Culture, is exciting and replicable outside of Hampshire. Kira provides suggestions to help other students realize the same changes at their schools.
My name is Kira, and I am a campaigns organizer for the FSF as well as a full-time student at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. I wanted to share some of the progress we have made at Hampshire. Thanks to the success of our student organization, LibrePlanet/Students for Free Culture, the school has just taken big steps to promote students' adoption of free software. Firstly, all incoming Hampshire College students this semester received a USB drive with download links for free software (listed below). The drives also included information about our student group and the importance of free software because people need to know how it is different from nonfree software and why the distinction matters. Secondly, GNU/Linux has been added as a boot option on all computers in our library. The student group has managed to achieve both of these milestones in the span of just two semesters.
This type of action is surprisingly easy to reproduce; if you try it at your own school, you'll almost certainly be able to make important headway whether or not you succeed in getting full institutional support. You can start a LibrePlanet chapter for your school as a local team to organize with your peers, or you can work independently. If you are a high school or other pre-university student, join GNU Generation to meet other young activists and get help starting a club. While you should always try to get support from your school's IT department and administrators, an enthusiastic group is all you need to distribute free software to your peers. On the other hand, if you would like to add GNU/Linux as a boot option on school computers, you will definitely need to work with the sysadmins.
One of LibrePlanet/Students for Free Culture's next steps at Hampshire is to provide better support for the GNU/Linux boot option, including a desktop wallpaper with text explaining how to contact us for support, what GNU/Linux is and, again, why free software matters. We are also working on improving the default list of applications that are installed on the non-free operating systems. Already, Firefox and LibreOffice are on all school computers, but we would like to find free software replacements to other proprietary applications still being used. Our big goal for this year is have the school require professors to use Open Document Format so that students are no longer forced to pay for expensive, proprietary software.
Hampshire College is definitely in a relatively good place in regards to recommending free software, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of work and effort needed to move things forward. Other schools may not be as receptive to promoting free software, but that is what makes your involvement so important. Never underestimate what a small number of committed individuals can accomplish. Join the LibrePlanet Activists and our discussion list to share your experiences and get help promoting free software at your school.
View the complete list of links that were distributed to each incoming Hampshire student this fall. They were .url internet shortcut files organized into folders for easy reference. We distributed them on USB drives, but if those aren't something your school provides, you could just as easily post fliers or send a mass email containing the same information. We paid particular attention to the difficulty of navigating each of the programs' websites. For any that did not have a prominent download link or had a confusing path to the download, we included direct links to download the software for Windows and OS X. We will be iterating this list in the future and we invite you to make your own improvements. You can see what other software we are recommending to students on our free software recommendations page on Hampedia, Hampshire College's wiki.
Originally posted on Free Software Foundation. Reposted using Creative Commons.