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Rethinking the higher education computer lab at U of VA
March 29, 2009 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Time to reconsider the traditional campus computer lab? The University of Virginia has begun a three-year process of shutting down its public computer labs to shave costs, citing 99% laptop ownership of incoming 2007 students and the predominant usage of free software in their computing facilities. Issues such as printing and software distribution have yet to be ironed out. [/. thread]
posted by porn in the woods (73 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lab software usage statistics from 2008 reveal that out of a total of 651,900 hours spent using software in the public computing labs, 95% of the time (over 619,500 hours), students were running commodity or free programs such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, or Microsoft Office.

Maybe someone should tell UVA that Microsoft Office isn't free.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:19 AM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is unconscionable for public universities and colleges in this economy, especially the ones whose charters specifically state that they are to provide low-cost education for in-state students.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:22 AM on March 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


The fact that students were using web browsers or acrobat says nothing about what they were doing with those programs. Even online database subscriptions require a web browser for access, and a lot of those full text articles come in PDFs. That's really poor reasoning on the part of the university.
posted by LiliaNic at 9:22 AM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, it's not clear if the "student laptops" are ones given by UVA or purchased by the students (or their parents), so it's a little ridiculous to assume that stuff like Office will be on there, even if it's available at a discount; I have several students here at UF who, apparently, are stuck with software like WordPerfect. I do hope that UVA will be factoring laptop (and software) costs into their cost of attendance.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:23 AM on March 29, 2009


Really? The Pell Grant kids are coming in with not just computers, but laptops? With their own copies of SPSS and MATLAB? Huh.

Though it's easy enough to include/require laptop ownership in tuition and fees these days-- and probably a good idea.
posted by availablelight at 9:24 AM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


The sentence specifically says "commodity or free" so they're probably aware of it.

I'm personally all for it as using computer labs were crippled machines, designed to protect the least technical user from blowing things up, leaving savvy users with a frustrating experience.

But for a college, it sounds unworkable to not have some sort of computer lab for students who can't afford a machine or there's in the shop or on the fritz.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:25 AM on March 29, 2009


I don't think there's anything surprising or amazing about this - it's really about time. When I went to college in the late 90s, all students were required to have laptops. We had computer labs, but most of us just used them for large print jobs. High end software was available to us through a virtual software library, or in specific labs (i.e., one of the accounting labs would have Peachtree available, one of the social science labs would have ArcView, etc.).

A couple years ago, they eliminted computer labs all together. That doesn't mean that there aren't computers available for use - the library has a large number, specific labs have them available, etc. They moved printing facilities into the library, and anyone can print via the network, from anywhere on campus.

This isn't a novel idea. This isn't even cutting edge. It's common sense, and it's about time. General use computer labs are a huge resource drain, and those resources can be better used in other ways, without causing the substantial impact on students that many people are (appropriately) worried about.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:39 AM on March 29, 2009


In the last 10 years, there's been a huge push for universities to create more and more computer labs to allow all their students to use computing technology and it became more prevalent. I wouldn't be surprised if usage of these labs rose and then fell as home computers became routine for nearly all students attending college.

Specialty computer labs should still be available for things like Matlab and whatever site licensed software they have already, but having extra empty computer labs isn't helping anyone. However, the decision should be made based on actual demand in the labs, not whether students have laptops or not.
posted by demiurge at 9:46 AM on March 29, 2009


I attend a Big State U right now, and go to the computer lab at least once a week, primarily for printing though I've used it when my laptop was broken. I've never been to any computer lab on campus that wasn't at least 2/3 full, and I do know several students without either a personal computer or regular internet access.

And it seems strange that some of their reasoning is that students were only using things like firefox or microsoft office -- the computers in the labs here aren't equipped with much else.
posted by lullaby at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been using a netbook as my only computer for the last eight months. It cost me $600, but could be replaced for about $400, as the price has come down. It runs linux and free software, including Open Office, Firefox, three pdf viewers (don't ask) and several compilers.

Cost per undergrad credit hour at UVA in 2006 was $200 in-state, $350 out-of-state. A single course is usually three credits, so a computer that'll last four years costs about as much as a single course.

Now what I've never owned is my own printer. I'd hope the university would make available printing.
posted by orthogonality at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2009


I thought Universities were supposed to lead the way in terms of advancing technology and access to information...

Back in the 80's/early90's, computer labs were a godsend...typing my papers on a word processor was so much better than using my typewriter...our family did not have a computer.

Sounds to me like they're going the wrong way...
posted by Chuffy at 10:10 AM on March 29, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi: "Maybe someone should tell UVA that Microsoft Office isn't free."

No, but college book stores always sell student licensed copies of software that are pretty cheap.
posted by octothorpe at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2009


Not all students have laptops. Not even in universities with relatively wealthy students. Additionally, laptops do break — succumb to virii, burn out, etc. It's not 100%.

I think that labs will shrink, but not necessarily vanish. Instead of endless rows of generic desktops, we'll see more specialized labs. A lab for working with video, a lab for Matlab and related software, etc. Even libraries have specialized software that works well "in-house." I should know, I've written some. Some facilities have charters which require them to be open to the public, which means that not everyone using the University's services are automatically students, some are faculty, staff, visitors, even the homeless, as we have previously noted.

Specialized hardware, public mandates, expensive software, and even the need not to lug a laptop around will ensure the continued existence of computer labs. It'll just look a bit different, that's all.
posted by adipocere at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2009


I'm personally all for it as using computer labs were crippled machines, designed to protect the least technical user from blowing things up, leaving savvy users with a frustrating experience.

That's just academia preparing students for life in corporate America.
posted by revgeorge at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe someone should tell UVA that Microsoft Office isn't free.

At UVa, and at most universities but unsurprisingly not UF, Office costs $10, or is downloadable for free from the local network.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on March 29, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi, the phrase was "commodity or free programs such as ...", commodity meaning "that which is bought and sold".

Our university isn't phasing them out, but we're moving to thin clients connected to vmware servers. The hardware's a fraction of the old Gateway desktops, and so is the upkeep. What we still haven't done is started charging student for printing. This is pretty much eating us alive; some departments are having students print out PDFs of their textbooks in labs.
posted by boo_radley at 10:17 AM on March 29, 2009


Back in the 80's/early90's, computer labs were a godsend...typing my papers on a word processor was so much better than using my typewriter...our family did not have a computer.

This isn't the late 80s or early 90s, and the $400 cost of a usable computer is completely inconsequential in the context of costs of attending university.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 AM on March 29, 2009


so a computer that'll last four years costs about as much as a single course.

But what happens when a course you take requires that you use a program that isn't available for Linux, or that requires more performance than you can get on a three-year-old netbook? Unless the school is deliberately very conservative about computing requirements, the minimum cost of a useful laptop is going to be higher.
posted by suetanvil at 10:39 AM on March 29, 2009


What we still haven't done is started charging student for printing. This is pretty much eating us alive; some departments are having students print out PDFs of their textbooks in labs.

What

(rassnfrassn I've dropped a good forty quid on printing alone argh 6p a page are they mad ARGH don't even talk to me about colour printing ARRRRGH.)

Man, no wonder it's eating you alive...
posted by kalimac at 10:56 AM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would be a lot cheaper for universities to provide laptops (and software) directly to students than to maintain traditional computer labs, which require the most expensive of inputs: real human beings to monitor them. I'm all for this if done right.

As for printing, I have maintained for the last two years that every university ought to issue a Kindle-style eBook reader to every student. The number of trees wasted for printing on the various campuses where I have studied or taught in recent years is appalling. People print things they never read, print because they don't like reading on screen, etc. I for one only take electronic submissions of papers from my students now. If they had reliable eBook readers with digital ink technology and easy network access to their assigned reading, most journals, and a significant number of books, which is pretty much the case on most campuses, most students would not need to print out so much paper. And the savings in printers, toner, and paper would *easily* cover the cost of the readers over a relatively short period.

The first university to really do this will be hailed as visionary. But economically, it makes perfect sense.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2009


Our school required every student to own a laptop. There were free laptops available for those that couldn't afford them. Were they useful? In most cases, I'm inclined to say that they were a distraction more than anything; in fact, most of my professors banned them from class.

Laptops for all were most useful doing collaborative work with other students. If you were stuck on homework, you could meet up with four or five others in the student union and try out different things in Maple/Matlab, debug code together... in those instances it so much more convenient than having to convene in the computer lab.

The labs were useful for a couple of things. First, if your computer broke it was your only option while yours was in the shop. Second, we had a lot of very specialized, very expensive software with a limited number of licenses. You're not going to include fluid dynamics software on everyone's package if only a couple people need it, and having it that widely available really fucks over the people that need to use it when five people are dicking around, wasting the licenses. We also had short courses that were taught in the computer labs.

So, yes, even if every person on campus has a laptop, I think the labs are still necessary. You certainly don't need one in every building, but having one or two centralized labs is very useful. What the laptops will require is installing printers in every building (on every floor?), ubiquitous wifi, and strong encryption on everything.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2009


I work on the "academic" side of a community college IT department, and there's a lot of speculation about laptop labs or billing students for a network. Mostly, it's an effort to reduce energy costs and offload equipment costs directly to students.

I can certainly understand the frustration of seeing a library lab full of people surfing facebook photo albums and youtube. But I gotta tell you, not every student has a computer of academic quality. I distinctly recall a poor innercity dormmate of mine who came to school a webTV in 2003. About all it's good for is chat; SD resolution just doesn't cut it for web surfing anymore. Certainly, it didn't hook up to a printer. But neither of us had laptops to bring to class.

In fact, that's probably the worse part of this. Laptops in the lecture hall are generally a mistake. They wind up being a distraction not only for the owners, but the people sitting behind them.
posted by pwnguin at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2009


What about colleges that offer CompSci? Do they get rid of the computers and expenct the students to do their work at the local Internet Cafe?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 AM on March 29, 2009


At UVa, and at most universities but unsurprisingly not UF, Office costs $10, or is downloadable for free from the local network.

That is um... not true. Every university I have been too reserves this generally ONLY for faculty and staff, not students. And student "discounted" software is expensive. Very much so.

I tell my students to use OpenOffice unless they have to use Microsoft Office.
posted by strixus at 12:09 PM on March 29, 2009


How can they avoid turning this into a computing nightmare for their students?

I certainly wouldn't want to pay hundreds of dollars for software that I'm only going to use occasionally, but at least I can afford it - because I can beg my parents for money. There are plenty of students who can't afford it.

And what about compatibility? Imagine trying to install that software on dozens of different configurations. Is the student who has a laptop that can't run whatever software going to have to buy a new one in order to pass their classes?

The journalism school at my university mostly uses Macs, because some of the applications that they use just work better on Macs. I think this is the same in the design programs as well. But there are courses that require you to use software that only works on Windows. Would students in that sort of situation have to buy two computers?

And then there's the simple fact that for students, having a computer is often necessary just in order to do your coursework. It would be extremely poor planning if they don't have resources in place for students who are temporarily without their own computer, since that's not just a matter of being without MetaFilter for a few days.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:09 PM on March 29, 2009


I'm sure it would be much cheaper to get a site license for software like Office or MATLAB for students to run them on their laptops then it would be to operate and maintain thousands of P.Cs. When I was a C.S. student I could get any of Microsoft's developer software for free, including SQL server, and their server OSes.

As far as access to databases, it couldn't be to difficult to grant students access to those on their laptops.

On the other hand, students obviously used those machines when I was in school despite everyone having desktop at least. And not everyone wants to lug around a laptop all the time. So obviously there's some utility.

I'm personally all for it as using computer labs were crippled machines, designed to protect the least technical user from blowing things up, leaving savvy users with a frustrating experience.

It wasn't a problem when I went to school, as window's built in user access restrictions actually worked pretty well. When I was in highschool we had Macs running OS9 and some seriously hacked up "security" systems. That was a disaster.

I think it would be strange and a little sad not to have computer labs, but there's not really any reason to have them, they mostly probably didn't exist before the '80s, and there's no reason for them to exist in the future, just like Arcades and newspapers and recorded music.

What about colleges that offer CompSci? Do they get rid of the computers and expenct the students to do their work at the local Internet Cafe?

What kind of CS student doesn't have their own PC?
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on March 29, 2009


So U.Va. has a weird computer lab setup. Most of the labs are run by ITC, and those are the ones that are getting shut down. But there are also labs run by the libraries and, with the exception of Clemons (which in addition to the ITC lab, also has a block of library-run computers), most of those look like they'll continue to run.

For example, in Alderman Hall, which is the main library on grounds, there's both a big block of computers, with printers, as well as a specialized student lab with big screens and quadcores for the kids who need to run GIS or other high end software. Neither of those looks like they're going anyway, according to the ITC release. At the same time, it doesn't look like this is affecting any of the many computer classrooms in the college or engineering school, so those will still be available for classes and, presumably, for projects.

It's a shame though. Even though I had my own laptop for most of college (and also lived off-grounds), I always wrote my last three or four papers of a semester in the Clemons ITC lab, simply because those computers didn't have all the games I have on this laptop and I needed to focus.

What the laptops will require is installing printers in every building (on every floor?), ubiquitous wifi, and strong encryption on everything.

I agree with you on the last two, and during my last couple of years at U.Va., the school made huge strides in both. We went from barely being able to access WiFi in the largest libraries to having it in every building, and at the same time had a robust 802.1X network where every student got a security certificate (I know nothing about secure wireless networking and am taking it on faith that this works, based on how irritating it was when it was broken).

At the same time, they've tried to eliminate printing as much as possible. The math and engineering departments use online homework submission; most English and humanities professors I had do so as well (it really cuts down on the lateness excuse of "I just missed you!") The only stuff I ever printed out was papers and the occasional reading; I always did that in the libraries, and there's no reason to think that the libraries couldn't maintain that role somehow.
posted by thecaddy at 12:15 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok, ok, guys, I see that they suggest that students can buy a copy of software that's not freely available. But even if students are buying it at a reduced rate (and you can at UF, too), it's still passing on costs, and overall rather substantial costs, to students. It really doesn't look like UVA is requiring students to, say, buy a laptop from them. They're just assuming that students will show up with them, and with laptops that have all the necessary software installed, that the computers will be compatible with the software that's available. This is pretty much like requiring students to buy a $2000 text book. Sure, the college can do it, but it's pretty ridiculously unfair, especially for poorer students.

When I first came to teach here at UF, I taught Technical Writing classes in UF's Networked Writing Environment. The computers used an ancient UNIX build, and were incredibly slow, but also incredibly useful for teaching students how to write memos and professional emails and the like. The labs were dismantled this summer because the university didn't have the means to update them. What the university seemed to be missing was that students in writing classes don't need incredibly up-to-date software or hardware--they just need, really, an email client, a web browser, and a word processor (and really, in most non-specialized computer labs, that's all that the students need). In fact, what I can't understand is why universities aren't just going straight to free software for their computer labs, if licensing and upgrades are such a drain.

Of course, instead, the university just told us to have the students handwrite all assignments. Which is incredibly silly for a business memo or letter, but, hey, you make due. Likewise, they're been encouraging professors to totally eliminate printing costs. Which, you know, was much easier when I could email students writing prompts, but what can you do?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:16 PM on March 29, 2009


Also, if their numbers are right, students still spent over 32000 hours using non-free, non-commodity software. That doesn't sound like an insignificant amount to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:24 PM on March 29, 2009


Really? The Pell Grant kids are coming in with not just computers, but laptops? With their own copies of SPSS and MATLAB? Huh.

They could just remotely log into a server on campus and run the command-line UNIX versions of those programs. Most university computing environments provide that option, but (in my experience) rarely advertise it to undergrads. Unfortunately, many intro stats/lin alg/scientific computing courses usually teach the Windows GUI versions of these programs because they're easier to use. And where SPSS is concerned, social science students often don't know Unix.
posted by thisjax at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2009


a general rule of thumb: when a university makes cuts, it is to save them money and any and all rationalization about why they claim it was done is probably suspect. Note in passing: ref to a state public school and out of state students: increasingly state are going beyond the traditional 10% out of state students admitted because they now charge a lot more for out of state students. Brings in money. Your parents pay for your state univerwsity and then they turn around and take in lots more non-state students, forcing, in some instances, in-state kids to go out of state and pay more!
posted by Postroad at 12:37 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


At UVa, and at most universities but unsurprisingly not UF, Office costs $10, or is downloadable for free from the local network.

Torrents?

At the two recent large universities I've worked in, Microsoft Office is an expense that end users are responsible for, about $80-160 depending on the version. There are volume licenses available to departments, but end users aren't allowed to purchase those. Same goes for licenses of Windows. At one university, you can only buy boxed retail copies.

Microsoft software is actually a pretty major cost, due to the fact that instructors share materials in Microsoft-proprietary formats: Windows-only Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

God help you if you're on a budget and can't afford the Microsoft tax.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:02 PM on March 29, 2009


Microsoft software is actually a pretty major cost, due to the fact that instructors share materials in Microsoft-proprietary formats: Windows-only Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Ironically, I tried to get my students to send me files in rich text during my first semester teaching. I can't tell you how many "What's .rtf?" questions I got.

Because openoffice actually plays more nicely with .doc than it does .rtf, I eventually just switched to that. I still get a ton of students sending me .docx, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2009


That is um... not true. Every university I have been too reserves this generally ONLY for faculty and staff, not students

It's... um... true at Virginia. $10 for Office, $10 for Vista.

It's also true at SUNY, though I don't know whether that's SUNY-wide or just my school.

Torrents?

Nope. HTTP; click here to download. The Office installer is about 500MB, IIRC, but since it's just staying on the local network it doesn't take more than 20-30 seconds to download.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2009


I have memories of the computer lab in the early 90's as a social place, where we would actually help each other with projects, and, y'know, enrich learning. I don't see that happening if everyone's sitting in their dorms with a laptop.
posted by Foosnark at 2:05 PM on March 29, 2009


This is pretty much like requiring students to buy a $2000 text book. Sure, the college can do it, but it's pretty ridiculously unfair, especially for poorer students.

No, it isn't. A perfectly good computer that will last you all four years of paper-writing will set you back $300-400, brand new. And you don't need brand new.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:15 PM on March 29, 2009


With so many classes dependent on computer use, if your computer breaks down, I guess you're screwed.
posted by destro at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2009


No, it isn't. A perfectly good computer that will last you all four years of paper-writing will set you back $300-400, brand new. And you don't need brand new.

Ah, my only portable computer is a little netbook, so I'm clueless about prices (especially since all of my laptop wielding friends have Macbooks).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:53 PM on March 29, 2009


Guess my school had poorer students, but when I worked IT last year, computer labs were still sometimes full. I found myself reduced to using them after a spillage accident for awhile, but they weren't much fun. Dreary with outdated computers....but still, I think that schools need some.
posted by melissam at 2:58 PM on March 29, 2009


This isn't the late 80s or early 90s, and the $400 cost of a usable computer is completely inconsequential in the context of costs of attending university.

I think that thinking of $400 towards supplies as being "inconsequential" is a dangerous line of thought. Sure, it falls in line with what universities would like us to think, since tuition is so terribly inflated, but that's still more than I've spent any given semester of my eight years of post-secondary education on textbooks.

I know that universities, even public universities, are increasingly run like corporations. But eliminating resources that really are largely used toward educational goals and forcing students (and, let's face it, this is going to hit hardest the poor students who pay for school through scholarships or loans and can't afford those sorts of out of pocket costs now anyway) to spend their own money instead is pretty dismal.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:03 PM on March 29, 2009


I'm currently teaching at three Universities here in London; one that maintains a full computer lab (and has since 2003 when I started working there part time), one with no lab at all and the remaining University completed their "full to no lab" switchover about one year ago.

In terms of engagement, the University with full computer labs (Macs and commodity but standardised Linux boxes) seems to sport the most highly motivated students. I'm teaching in the Quantitative Finance track there, and using fully maintained, centrally imaged computers means the students have all the tools they need all the time. No hassles installing / updating / etc.

On the other hand, the University that requires students to have their own PC seems to have lots of software issues that just get in the way of learning.

I'm trying to teach Financial Engineering there, and I'm getting hit with far too many queries about downloading / installing / maintaining software across a variety of environments. I have absolutely no idea why something that would install & run in XP SP? won't even install on Vista. And frequently neither does the IT Help Desk.

Now we're seeing students showing up with these absolutely wonderful (for some tasks that is) netbooks that can't run Matlab. The stories here are tragic; well intentioned parents sent their children off with a tool that thought would be adequate as every pence counts, only for the kid to find out - under academic pressure mind you - that the netbook is unusable for some tasks. And its their only PC as well.

It really comes down to this: if students can't use or access basic tools - for whatever reason, be it financial or whatever - then they have been disadvantaged and they will underperform.

For my speciality, finance, I can't really view this as step forward, even if it would unarguably reduce costs. I'd go so far as to suggest that a computer lab on campus, available 24/7 is as much as necessity as lighting or physical security.

Eliminating shared PC labs seems like a false economy.
posted by Mutant at 3:14 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons we went with vmware infrastructure is to minimize the licensing costs of SPSS, MatLab, and the insane host of poorly written yet stunningly expensive health care education software. We have virtualized labs for each track, and licensed software for 30 students. It's much easier than having to shell out for, say, seven dorm labs at 25 computers and trying to keep track of what students are at what dorms.

Plus, the vmware client runs pretty dang well on a windows netbook, so your $400 asus lappie can connect just as well as the lab computers.

If you're in a post-secondary institution and you're not moving stuff to VMs, you're pretty much shoveling money into a fire.
posted by boo_radley at 3:46 PM on March 29, 2009


my only portable computer

You don't need a portable computer. A clunky old desktop will work fine.

I think that thinking of $400 towards supplies as being "inconsequential" is a dangerous line of thought.

Again, that's for a new pc. There's absolutely no reason you couldn't complete a normal humanities or social-science writing-papers career at Virginia using a nearly-free or actually-free 2000-era P3 or Athlon running XP or 98SE, or linux if you'd rather.

But eliminating resources that really are largely used toward educational goals

Virginia's point is that they're not primarily used towards educational goals. They're primarily a convenience item so that students can surf the web or edit a bit without going home.

Again, Virginia is not talking about closing every computer lab on grounds. They're talking about having their central computing service close its general-access labs. Not the compute-intensive labs, where if you're web-surfing someone will appropriately tell you to get out of the seat (or where you remotely login). Not the labs run by other facets of the university.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2009


What the laptops will require is installing printers in every building (on every floor?)

Oh my god, no. Printers and copiers are support PITAs already without totally releasing them into the hostile environment of the clueless/impatient users with no feeling of ownership.

How about a Kinko's gift card?
posted by ctmf at 5:34 PM on March 29, 2009


You guys realize that college budgets are getting slashed across the country right. You can thank Clare McCaskell and other "centrist" Dems (along with Arlan specter and Olympia snow) for cutting the level of state funding from the stimulus bill.

Colleges are desperate to cut costs. If you think it seems like they're trying pass costs on to kids it's because they are.
posted by delmoi at 6:36 PM on March 29, 2009


The university I TA at has a completely dysfunctional system of computer labs which are working about as often as they are broken. This is made worse by the mandatory $200/semester technology fee that every student pays for the privilege of using the labs.

The solution? I distributed an installer for all the software we needed for the course (all of which is free but tricky to install). About half the students use their laptops exclusively (even when class is held in the computer lab), and when the lab machines aren't working I have them pair up. Almost all the students have laptops even if they don't bring them to class.

If the labs disappeared entirely I don't think we'd be any worse off.
posted by miyabo at 7:05 PM on March 29, 2009


Virginia's point is that they're not primarily used towards educational goals. They're primarily a convenience item so that students can surf the web or edit a bit without going home.

As an English grad student and teacher, I can tell you that "editing a bit" is most certainly working towards an educational goal. If working on papers isn't educational, I don't know what is.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't need a portable computer. A clunky old desktop will work fine.

ROU, the original article was all about how 99% of students supposedly own laptops and how UVA was increasing the availability of services like wireless to further entice students to use these in place of their lab computers. I don't disagree that even an old desktop is fine for the general computing needs of most college students, but the school is operating under the assumption that students will have computers, and, apparently laptop computers at that. If UVA's administration is anything like UF's, I wouldn't put it past them to start telling their instructors things like "Don't give students any hardcopies in class; they all have laptops, anyway." * This is when the cost of a laptop becomes an unstated cost of college admission. I'd actually find this less problematic if the school required, through fees, that students purchase some sort of university-affiliated laptops--at least then there would be a standard software set and students could feasibly pay for the computers with their tuition payment plans or loans or other financial aid. But it doesn't sound like the university wants to keep the staff necessary for maintenance of these computers on hand, anyway.


*And, while I acknowledge that printing costs can be a drain, I can also tell you that in workshop-based writing classes, they're an absolutely necessary "evil."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:45 PM on March 29, 2009


Well, from the university point of view, when the survey they have run every year finds that over 99% of incoming freshmen own laptops, and this has been true for at least the past five years (I got bored and stopped looking after that), and that the number of students coming in without a laptop is averaging 5 out of 3200...you might start wondering why you are keeping a lab open that specifically doesn't contain any software they won't have already (ie: word processor and email).
posted by jacalata at 9:18 PM on March 29, 2009


As an English grad student and teacher, I can tell you that "editing a bit" is most certainly working towards an educational goal. If working on papers isn't educational, I don't know what is.

Yes, of course. But doing so between classes instead of at home is, legitimately, a mere convenience. Not so for the 1% who have no computer, no.

Frankly, I think Virginia could easily deal with this by simply selling students who want one working but clunky old desktops out of their surplus for $100.

the original article was all about how 99% of students supposedly own laptops and how UVA was increasing the availability of services like wireless to further entice students to use these in place of their lab computers.

None of which means you need a laptop. A desktop is fine, and all of Virginia's dorms, including upperclass dorms, are hard-wired.

If UVA's administration is anything like UF's, I wouldn't put it past them to start telling their instructors things like "Don't give students any hardcopies in class; they all have laptops, anyway."

Virginia and UF might as well be on different planets, they're so utterly, completely different places. Which isn't to say that UVa's adminstration can't be fucked up, but it will be fucked up in very different ways than UF's.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 PM on March 29, 2009


Yes, of course. But doing so between classes instead of at home is, legitimately, a mere convenience. Not so for the 1% who have no computer, no.

The availability of public computers to do work between classes has been a major convenience for me, both as an undergrad and graduate student. Course scheduling what it is, it's often impossible to schedule classes altogether in one block--having public space available to do work between classes was often the only way that I got work done, and I was a pretty good student. From talking to my own students, I suspect the same is true for them; they're people with extremely cramped schedules, some of them juggling jobs and long commutes. Those who live on campus usually live in likewise cramped, rowdy, ergonomically unfriendly dorms. For those with desktops only (and I only had one for all of college and most of graduate school) or for that 1% with no computers, public facilities give them the luxury of getting work done. If misuse of the computers is the problem--if the students aren't doing academic work, then monitor them better--block facebook, and reduce the number of computer terminals. But as someone pointed out upthread, this isn't about labs going empty; it's about university pennypinchers saying "Well, students can just spend their own money on software", a policy that's going to hurt only the poorest students. I can see the reasoning, but I think it undermines the institution's educational goals, and I think it's wrong.

But I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree about this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:29 PM on March 29, 2009


Out here in Singapore, they give interest-free loans to all students to get new laptops with Windows/ Office pre-installed. (Should know; that's how I could afford a new comp despite being close to penury for four years) I've avoided _all_ of the university's comp labs for as far as I can remember; not only were the systems _less_ powerful than my cheapo laptop, given the smelly air-con and the guy next to you watching porno on headphones, it wasn't really conducive to studying at all.

As for printing, we had three printers in a common corridor which also had seats and plug-points where you could quickly check your print-job.
posted by the cydonian at 10:48 PM on March 29, 2009


I work in a general access computer lab at a state university. One of my current biggest fears is that the people here will decide to cut costs by cutting my lab. We do see a lot of folks surfing, playing games, and watching movies. On the flipside of that, though, I had a guy watching Firefly in the lab the other day, and he said it was required for some drama class. Could be; I don't know.

At any rate, printing eats up the vast majority of our budget. I'm not at liberty to say how much, but I do know that it's a lot more than the folks who staff the lab on a 24-hour basis are paid. People keep talking about applying a printing quota and/or charge, but that's been going on for at least 3 years now.

The following is all purely anecdotal. From what I see, the departments can't accept that people really don't like reading off of a screen a lot of the time. I personally think it's hard on the eyes and one can't highlight or make notes on it, so, while I can't blame the students for printing out tons of materials, it does cause a burden. I've helped TAs scan in chapter after chapter to post on blackboard, and I explain to them that the students are just going to come back into the same lab and print out all those pages. They're shocked! They don't believe me and then I get to see the students come in and do exactly like I said they would. I also get frustrated with professors, seems to be mostly biology and various design degrees, for whose classes everything MUST be printed in color for diagrams, etc., or else it's unusable. I've also got students who show me the requirements that their papers be printed single-sided, because the people grading them cannot be bothered to flip a page. Really? They want to use twice as much paper? Not to mention the instructors who REQUIRE that the students print out their notes (It's most often PowerPoint, if I'm lucky, but all too often, they have "conveniently" converted the files to pdf or something where we have much less control about printing format. Thanks, y'all.) and bring them to class. I'm old school and all, but what? Since when is not taking notes with a pencil and paper not ok?

(I'll mention here that I'm a big fan of chalkboards and good note-taking skills. I'm giving my age away, I know.)

I've suggested that the departments could make some sort of arrangement with printing services and the bookstore to see pre-printed packets, if they can't choose a suitable book. That would benefit two different other service departments, and save the drag on mine. I'm very low on the totem pole, so I don't get far with that. The best I can do is suggest that the students mention it on the evaluation forms at the end of each semester. I do know they hate having to waste their own toner or time to print out the required materials. I don't know what they about the evaluations.

Now, here's the thing. If I'm not there on a regular basis teaching students, faculty, and staff how to do things like check their email, send attachments, use Blackboard, use the registration site, make charts in Excel, format their Word documents, teach them to make basic web pages, reset their password, refer them to the registrar, etc., etc., how's that all going to happen? The way I look at it, the providers of higher services are the chefs in the restaurant, and I'm the waitress. I'm good at it and I enjoy it most of the time. What's going to happen to the students when the middle person isn't their and the "chef" isn't willing to wait tables? And what's going to happen to the budgets when the students have to drop out because services like mine aren't available?
posted by lilywing13 at 1:05 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry about the occasional typo and the long read. Obviously, I feel strongly about this subject.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:08 AM on March 30, 2009


Just for all those "let those punks sink or swim" folks out there, I have to say I mostly agree, BUT... Please be aware of:

Faculty who have never had to learn that stuff and there is no specialized way of teaching them, so they come to my lab because they hear we are nice and patient. My boss and I got mentioned in the acknowledgments of a book and taken out to lunch for helping format a book for a non-standard, European publisher. That was a fun and challenging thing, and lunch was terrific!

Staff who have never had to learn any of that kind of thing, but really need it for their job. I'm talking grounds maintenance, among others.

Students with helicopter parents from hell. There have been more times that I can count where I've had to tell a parent that they can't set up the account for the student because the "child" is over 18 and because of state laws about privacy. And these are often not parents who could afford the additional cost for a laptop on top of school costs. I do understand their concerns, but my hands and common sense are tied.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:56 AM on March 30, 2009


Really? The Pell Grant kids are coming in with not just computers, but laptops?

Way back in the first half of this decade (when laptops were a tad more expensive), I went to a public VA university...I was a Pell Grant kid and I had a laptop. Bought it with my own money that I had worked for all through high school...
posted by hellogoodbye at 4:36 AM on March 30, 2009


lilywing13 (and anyone else who's talked about printing costs),

When I was a physics undergrad, the department lab (thus not a public access) one had printing such that we brought the paper, but didn't have to pay to use it. It meant that we didn't need to worry about owning a printer or keeping it working, and the cost of paper was not the end of the world. Especially since it was a closed-access lab, we could just leave reams in the lab with our names on it, borrowing if we were out. Would that work at all for your situations?

When I got access to the math department, which had pay-for printing but the paper was sitting around, jackpot!
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2009


The availability of public computers to do work between classes has been a major convenience for me, both as an undergrad and graduate student.

But it's still just a convenience. You could as easily just bring reading to get through during the day, and do your writing at home, even at a student-hostile place like UF.

From talking to my own students, I suspect the same is true for them; they're people with extremely cramped schedules, some of them juggling jobs and long commutes.

Again, UVa isn't UF. At UF, "convenience" might mean, for the average student, avoiding a long trek to a parking lot and a twenty-minute drive to the deep recesses of Archer Road. At UVa, for the average student, "convenience" means avoiding a ten to fifteen minute walk home, as all first-year students are required to live on grounds and the vast, overwhelming majority of upperclass students live within a short walk of grounds.

Those who live on campus usually live in likewise cramped, rowdy, ergonomically unfriendly dorms.

Virginia isn't Florida.

If misuse of the computers is the problem--if the students aren't doing academic work, then monitor them better--block facebook, and reduce the number of computer terminals.

No, the problem is that, as with many universities over the past couple of years and into the next couple, something is going to get cut. Or, more realistically, several somethings. What would you suggest they cut instead to save $300000 instead that will have less effect on quality of learning and research -- at UVa, not at UF?

But I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree about this.

Maybe. You keep talking about UF, though, and UF isn't considering this. UVa is.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2009


But it's still just a convenience. You could as easily just bring reading to get through during the day, and do your writing at home, even at a student-hostile place like UF.

And I did. But writing on campus was still what allowed me to get the majority of my work done when I was a commuter--after all, I was a writing major. In the past, and concurrently with the existence of computer labs, there have been study corrals all over just about every campus I've had experiences with. I hope administration realizes that it's just as important to have space to do distraction-free computer based work as it is to have space to do distraction based reading. Several people upthread pointed out that they preferred to do work on campus because it offered computers without the games or distractions that their home/personal computers offered.

Maybe. You keep talking about UF, though, and UF isn't considering this. UVa is.

I was actually thinking just as much of my experience both as a student at a state school in New Jersey (where I lived on campus for the first two years, but often worked in computer labs for the quiet) and my experiences working on staff at a community college. And I've never experienced a dorm that was a good place to work--for example, I had a close friend who went to Drew University (expensive, private school) whose dorms were one of the loudest living spaces I've ever experienced.

But honestly, I'm really not interested in arguing about this any more. Please stop nit-picking my comments.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:36 AM on March 30, 2009


(I meant distraction-free reading, of course!)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2009


Please stop nit-picking my comments.

All I've been trying to say is that things that might legitimately be disastrous and counter-mission at UF, or a community college, or Rutgers or whatever, might well not be at Virginia because Virginia draws almost exclusively from families who can afford computers, has a different financial base, does not have the standard Big State U mission, does not have the standard Big State U relationship to the state, that has almost no commuters, and so on.

At UF or Sante Fe or, say, Georgia or Missouri, general-access computer labs might well be legitimately important things that make a real difference to the large numbers of students from not-very-prosperous families, and the large numbers of students who were the first in their families to attend college, who commute from home three cities over, and so on. This does not mean that they serve the same useful function at Virginia.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:48 AM on March 30, 2009


because Virginia draws almost exclusively from families who can afford computers

Right. And that's why I said that I thought it would make more sense for Virginia to develop an institutional laptop program--then the 1% that currently does not have their own computers could easily pay through financial aid. That way, also, software would be standardized--which makes things easier for instructors juggling multiple programs/OSes. If most stuents at Virginia can already afford laptops, this wouldn't be a problem, and for those who can't, or can't afford one that meets the minimum computing standards set by Virginia (which are higher, btw, than what you've been insisting all along would be acceptable for university students), they'd be able to look toward financial aid to pay them. It might only be four students who would be screwed over by Virginia's incoming policy of letting the students sort it out, but that's four too many in my book. If it's a requirement that students get laptops, then make it a requirement.

Incidentally, my friend who went to Drew University (wealthy resident campus, institutional laptops required) ended up spending a good amount of time in their computer labs--and yes, they have computer labs despite having a mandatory laptop program--because his laptop broke down several times throughout his four years there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:16 AM on March 30, 2009


It might only be four students who would be screwed over by Virginia's incoming policy of letting the students sort it out, but that's four too many in my book. If it's a requirement that students get laptops, then make it a requirement.

You'd really rather force 3000 students who already have laptops or desktops to pay for another computer chosen with little or no regard for cost? You think forcing the incoming students to spend an additional, probably, three to six million dollars for the net benefit of less than ten students is a reasonable thing to do?

which are higher, btw, than what you've been insisting all along would be acceptable for university students

Their standard is for a machine that you can be reasonably sure will run whatever new OS Microsoft has in four years, and whatever the latest resource-hogging version of Office is in 2013. But work gets done just as easily with Office 2002, or even Office XP or Office 97.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2009


You'd really rather force 3000 students who already have laptops or desktops to pay for another computer chosen with little or no regard for cost? You think forcing the incoming students to spend an additional, probably, three to six million dollars for the net benefit of less than ten students is a reasonable thing to do?

If the argument is that the students have disposable income to spend money on hardware and software themselves, then why not ask incoming students to buy standardized computers as they enter college? As I said, the primary benefit of this is that it would allow students to have a standardized software package, which would eliminate the pedagogical problems caused by different OSes and systems (as cited by Mutant--these can be a really significant drain on instruction time) and that it would enable students who don't have the money to afford computer systems to rely on financial aid to pay for them. Usually these types of programs are instituted on an incoming class; already-matriculated students wouldn't be forced to make the change, and incoming students, and their parents, would be able to factor in the cost of the laptops into the first-year expenses. Which they have to do already. Because without computer labs, students are just as required to buy campus-compatible computers--it's just an unstated requirement.

Their standard is for a machine that you can be reasonably sure will run whatever new OS Microsoft has in four years, and whatever the latest resource-hogging version of Office is in 2013. But work gets done just as easily with Office 2002, or even Office XP or Office 97.

Hey, it's not what I think the students need; it's what UVA thinks they need.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2009


If the argument is that the students have disposable income to spend money on hardware and software themselves, then why not ask incoming students to buy standardized computers as they enter college?

That's not the argument. The argument is that all but a bare handful already have computers. That doesn't mean that they all have brand-new laptops at the minimum standard suggested by UVa's IT department. It means that some of them bring their family's four-year-old desktop and the family upgraded, or it means that some of them bring an old laptop that a parent doesn't need any more because work bought them a new one. It means that some of them went out and bought $400 machines that will work just fine, thanks, even if they won't be able to run the newest whizbang stuff in four years.

as cited by Mutant--these can be a really significant drain on instruction time

Honestly, I don't think that graduate or professional programs in quantitative finance really carry many lessons for general-purpose undergraduate education. At the general-purpose, non-engineering undergraduate level, nearly all of these problems can be obviated by simply not accepting work turned in electronically, not distributing assignments and so on electronically, or only distributing assignments electronically in plaintext.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:05 PM on March 30, 2009


MS Office 2003 and 2007 was free at NJIT. Hell, almost all Microsoft software and even Matlab is free for students. But it wasn't across the street at Rutgers - I think the cheapest student copy of Office was $150 or $200 in the bookstore.
posted by exhilaration at 12:17 PM on March 30, 2009


Honestly, I don't think that graduate or professional programs in quantitative finance really carry many lessons for general-purpose undergraduate education. At the general-purpose, non-engineering undergraduate level, nearly all of these problems can be obviated by simply not accepting work turned in electronically, not distributing assignments and so on electronically, or only distributing assignments electronically in plaintext.

As thecaddy points out, most professors at UVA specifically have moved away from accepting hardcopy assignments in order to cut down on lateness excuses and, probably, printing costs. And I deal with this kind of problem all the time in my composition classes (which do carry lessons for general-purpose undergraduate education) despite being very specific about what formats I accept things in, and why. I even give my students a syllabus quiz about it. But still, I get emails like this one, which I received this morning, all the time:
Im not sure how to no send it as a .wps file, but I think I sent it as a rich text file. If you still have trouble opening it, please let me know. I'll bring a hard copy of it to class on Monday. Thank you for being so understanding. Oh, and I couldnt open the final paper assignment due dates email that you sent, so i was wondering if you could send me a hard copy of that on Monday if you have any, if not thats fine, I'll just ask someone from class.
Heck, I even helped a graduate student friend with a similar software issue issue this weekend. She was formatting her thesis, and the templates that the editorial office give us are supposed to work on a variety of platforms. She was editing her thesis on a marginally older version of Mac Office and the template just absolutely did not work. Luckily, she could just go and use one of the computer labs on campus, which all have the software she needs to get her thesis formatted correctly.

These aren't minor inconveniences for students and instructors. They're major pains in the asses that keep students from completing work that conforms to the minimal formatting concerns of their fields.

Computer labs offer tangible benefits even to students who have their own computers. They're useful even at schools where students are required to buy university-affiliated computers, because you never know when a computer will break down. At schools where students are not required to bring computers, labs offer standard software packages, which are guaranteed compatible with the computers that they're used on. And for students who can't afford their own computers, even if it's a tiny handful of students, they're absolutely integral to academic success.

So I think what UVA is doing is a shame, even if most students who go there are wealthy enough to afford their own computers. Computer labs help students achieve academic goals, even if they cost money, and an institution's academic goals should really be the cornerstone of the decision-making process. But, likewise, I think it's a shame that universities libraries largely no longer keep textbooks on reserve for student access. Sure, it's more financially efficient to force students to take on the burden of all expenses themselves. But by passing on costs to students, universities most harshly penalize the poorest students, who are often struggling to stay afloat already.

So, sorry, but I still disagree with you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:34 PM on March 30, 2009


So I think what UVA is doing is a shame, even if most students who go there are wealthy enough to afford their own computers.

They aren't even talking about closing all the labs! Only the ones run by central IT.

There are consequences for keeping them open, as well, unless budgets are ever-expanding. Permanent licenses don't get updated to newer versions, periodic licenses get dropped. New software doesn't get bought. Research machines don't get refreshed as often as they should. Compute-intensive systems and clusters go unrefreshed or unexpanded. Faculty machines don't get refreshed as often as they should.

I dunno. If something has to give, then eliminating a particular class of computer lab when only a bare handful don't have their own machines and there will remain other classes of lab, is at the least an interesting solution that might help the university IT maintain core function to the university as a whole instead of allowing everything to degrade.

Though you could probably achieve 90% of the savings by replacing the current mix with one or two labs where none of the machines have a web browser, or where all-but-whitelisted IPs are rerouted to 128.0.0.1, so there's nothing to do on the machines except work.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:39 PM on March 30, 2009


Lemurrhea, in answer to your question, the toner is the major expense. The paper is the least expensive part of the printing costs.
posted by lilywing13 at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2009


My previous job was--in part--running a computer lab at [satellite university]'s library. Granted this campus' student pool is likely markedly different than UVa but that seems a fairly dramatic step to take. My lab's audience consisted of a sizeable percentage of students who did not have a personal computer, laptop or otherwise, and we ran at capacity for most all of the 6am-midnight hours the library was open.

I guess I'm trying to say that, while this may work for UVa--and hooray if it does, I would hate for other institutions with non-similar student populations trying the same thing because UVa happened to make it work for them. And I think this is the point those of us who are arguing against this are trying to make.

On the other hand, the primary reason our lab was patronized to such a high degree was because the intermittent staffing of the central IT's labs was less than helpful and the machines were poorly maintained and in disrepair. Campus IT was way more concerned with building out expensive infrastructure with blinky LEDs they could show off behind glass walls that only a small segment of the student population would ever have access to than they were with the mundane tasks of providing a functional computer lab.

[...]

Wow, my resentment is showing, huh? Still, my experiences running a lab at one university dovetail with my experiences as a student at several others. Campus IT is generally more interested in the glamorous projects that make careers than they are in providing useful computing environments. A shift in focus might help them avoid taking such a dramatic, and entirely counter-mission step IMO.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been meaning to join MeFi for some time, but this was the tipping point. I'm a recent enough graduate of UVa that I still have friends who are undergraduates, and I'm still on a few listservs to stay in touch. They've been up in arms about this - I know of no current students arguing it's a good idea, and none who feel they would directly benefit from this policy.

I decided to do a little research and some math.

The survey repeatedly mentioned reports 4 of 3,117 entering first-year students not owning a computer. It notes that "Approximately 99% of all first-year students were contacted." UVa's own enrollment figures show that there were actually 3,248 students in that first year class. Given what I know firsthand about the way UVa surveys its undergrads, I suspect the survey was conducted via email or online, meaning that the 131 students not responding to the survey are much more likely to also be students who are at a computing disadvantage.

The majority of labs open 24/7 are in dorms, and all of the dorm labs are being closed this summer. So is one of the two 24-hour library labs. The lone exception (until 2011) is a single lab in the bowels of the engineering school which is also used as a classroom - thus, after this summer, there will be no labs available 24/7 for student use. Also, because all of the libraries go down to shorter hours on breaks, the dorm labs are often the only computers consistently available when classes are not in session - this includes times like Spring Break when many have research to do and papers to write. And the one library lab currently being left open indefinitely has shorter hours than many of those that will close. The non-ITC labs, mostly located in academic buildings, are generally smaller and less accessible - so the labs being cut are the ones that likely see the most general use.

The line about students primarily using free software got to me, too. Let's look at
ITC's own report[PDF], which shows that over 32,000 hours of use were logged on "specialty" software over the last calendar year, including over 6,000 hours in February and over 8,000 in April. And again, it's the users in that 5% of total usage (as UVa expresses it) who will be most impacted by the change. And even though they probably represent less than 5% of the actual user base, they're going to be especially screwed, since they're presumably working in the lab rather than at home for solid reasons. I know the computer I had, by the time I graduated, was crawling and would never have handled most of this software - it limped along in Firefox and OpenOffice as it was.

And of the 85,000 hours logged on 'free download' software, let's consider: access to the Blackboard equivalent, for course assignments, is exclusively through a web interface. So is course registration. So is the library catalog. A significant chunk of readings are distributed in PDF. So it's not as though all of those hours are spent on Facebook.

Dividing the number of hours logged by the enrollment indicates that students spend, on average, more than 45 hours per semester in the ITC labs. While printing was my primary use for my dorm's lab, there were a couple of guys who practically lived in there - I couldn't tell you if they had their own machines or not, but if they did they never used them. I have a friend whose laptop screen died who routinely plugged into one of the lab's monitors because he couldn't afford to give it up for a week to be fixed. When my screen died, I did the same thing. And the majority of the "help, my computer crashed, what do I do" emails sent to the dorm list (of which there were at least two a week) presumably came from the lab as well. Again, all of us would be SOL under the new policy.

Finally, to consider the source: My most memorable contact with ITC was the time they cut off my network access for alleged abuse, and only notified me via email. The only way I found out was by logging on in my dorm lab, which will very soon be a non-option.
posted by rhymeswithaj at 8:37 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Geez, even I think there need to be labs for anything more compute-intensive than Office, with some safeguards to keep people from hogging the machines for web surfing.

Dorm labs? Seriously? Where on earth did they wedge them, especially in old dorms?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:01 PM on March 30, 2009


Dorm labs? Seriously? Where on earth did they wedge them, especially in old dorms?

None of the first-year dorms officially have labs, although one of the newer ones used to have a computer classroom on the first floor (residents were on 2 and above). Most of the upperclassman housing and residential colleges have a room with 10 or 12 PCs tucked away in a corner - ours was across from the laundry room in the basement.

Also, as a slight amendment to my previous post, I was rereading the lab list and apparently there's two dozen computers somewhere in the Chem building that will be around 24/7 until 2011. My mistake, though my general point still holds.
posted by rhymeswithaj at 9:36 PM on March 30, 2009


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