Computers in dorm labs may be removed, replaced with wireless

Computer labs in residence halls may be phased out and replaced with wireless common areas, a University official said.

Alexa Kim, executive director of Technology Services for Information Systems and Services, said the need for these labs has decreased because of the number of students who own computers. She said there is no timeline on removing the computers or installing wireless hotspots because plans are not finalized.

“Between 98 to 99 percent of students bring their own computers to GW,” Kim wrote in an e-mail. “I think the trend is showing that computer lab space is being used for other purposes and that there are ongoing discussions to provide more wireless in common use areas.”

Kim said computer labs in Thurston and City Hall have been converted to rooms or University offices. Other labs in JBKO Hall and 1959 E Street have no computers. Ivory Tower is the only dorm with a functioning computer lab, with eight 2004 Dell desktops using a Microsoft Office package and Internet browsers.

The 1959 E Street computer lab is one of the labs under repair. The room is without computers, but has six cubicles with four phone jacks and two electric outlets. Residents looking for a quiet place to work often come to the room and plug in their laptops. Kim said E Street’s lab equipment is currently undergoing repair and will be returned.

Many universities across the country have computers in residence halls. Georgetown University offers computer labs in a number of residence halls, said Erik Smulson, Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications. He said wireless Internet is also offered in several of the labs.

Sophomore Sarah Lefferts, an Ivory Tower resident, said she uses her dormitory’s lab frequently to check her e-mail without walking all the way up to her room.

“I feel we should definitely keep the computer labs,” Lefferts said. “I know people who didn’t bring computers to school. Last year, there was a kid in my UW class who I know used the labs all the time.”

Leffert said with many professors using e-mail and Blackboard, an online classroom resource, it is useful to have computer labs in dormitories. She said the Ivory Tower computer lab seemed to be popular among residents, and the lab was “inviting” with computers that were “well-maintained, new and easy to use.”

Residents in dorms that had the computer labs removed said there was no notice or explanation of why the computers were taken.

At least a couple weeks ago there were computers in the JBKO basement study lounge, but they disappeared with their whereabouts unknown to residents, said sophomore Greg Wright, a resident of the dorm. Kim said the lab was eliminated in 2005.

“Not that many people used them in the first place,” Wright said. “I don’t even know if they worked. People would just take their laptops and use the Internet and power connection.”

Paige Hansen, a freshman resident of Thurston Hall, said the need for dorm computer labs is not just for those students without computers, but for those who encounter difficulties.

“My roommates both had computer and Internet problems with their laptops, and they were forced to resort to the Gelman computer lab,” Hansen said. “At a time like that, a computer lab in Thurston would be extremely useful. Otherwise,s you have to go all the way to the library.”

Senior Harry Mushlin, an E Street resident, said dorm computer labs are unnecessary.

“Even if E Street had computers, I wouldn’t use them,” Mushlin said. “Dorm computer labs are somewhat a waste of University resources. The assumption is that everyone has a computer. A study room isn’t bad, but everyone has their own computers that they can bring to the study room.”

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