IBM/Lenovo may recall SJU laptop batteries

Batteries from several models of the St. John’s student laptops may have been recalled by the laptops’ manufacturer, IBM corp./Lenovo Inc., the University announced on Friday.

The recall, which may affect some R52, R60 or T60 model laptops, though not any R40 or R50e models, is thought to be because of “a manufacturing defect of some type” that resulted in microscopic contaminants in the batteries that could cause them to short circuit, said Information Technology’s Executive Director of user services Ken Mahlmeister.

According to Joseph Tufano, the chief information officer, the University is currently awaiting word from IBM/Lenovo on whether any laptops will have to be serviced, and specifically which ones are affected by the recall.

“As soon as we receive confirmation, we will post the results on St. John’s Central and the [St. John’s] Web site,” Tufano said.
He added that if any students’ laptops do have the recalled batteries, the University will replace them free of charge. Administrators and faculty have also been notified of the problem.

Tufano said that although IBM/Lenovo originally only told St. John’s that certain model numbers may be affected, they have since been able to narrow down the problem to batteries manufactured on certain dates. Only those made on these certain dates are risks, and it is believed that few if any of those affected are on the St. John’s campus.

“We’re hopeful that it’s a small problem,” Tufano said. “But it will be resolved no matter how big or small.”

Cindy Grossman, special assistant to the vice president in Student Affairs, echoed Tufano’s sentiment, saying “it looks like it will affect us minimally.”

St. John’s has been distributing IBM laptops to students since Sept. of 2003, when they were first given to the incoming freshman class, Tufano said. Since then, they have been given to every incoming class, and every year the machines have been upgraded.

“We renegotiate the contract [with the IBM Corporation] as needed,” Tufano said. “The current contract is a two-year contract that ends after this year… after that, we will negotiate a replacement contract.

“I think the ThinkPad is the best machine on the market [for college students],” he continued. “It’s the most robust, and [this year’s model] is the fourth generation of the machine that we’ve distributed.