Saturday, February 18, 2012

1991. NYTimes.

Campus Life: Dartmouth; Policy Requires Undergraduates To Own Computers

Dartmouth has become the first Ivy League college and one of a handful in the nation to require all undergraduates to own a personal computer.
While almost 90 percent of Dartmouth's 4,200 undergraduates already have personal computers, making computers mandatory will mean Federal student aid can cover their purchase.
The college, whose faculty voted for the proposal last month, said it had instituted the policy primarily in response to last year's change in the Federal student-aid handbook, which says computers may be included in a financial-aid package only if all students are required to own them.
The Federal policy has meant students with limited resources could not buy computers, said Deborah Nichols, a professor of anthropology and a member of the faculty executive committee at Dartmouth. 'Case for Discrimination'
The survey conducted by the college last year showed that computer purchases dropped from 77 to 64 percent among minority students after the change in the Federal aid rules, while purchases by nonminority students remained about 88 percent.
"It seems like the Federal ruling has created a case for discrimination," said Dean Wilcox, a professor of chemistry and chairman of the committee on the freshman year at Dartmouth.
In the college's survey, 69 percent of the incoming freshmen agreed that the purchase of computers should be mandatory.
"To me the most important reason for implementing this proposal is for academic reasons," said Jessica Levine, a junior history major from Kingston, Mass.
Dartmouth's academic programs rely heavily on an extensive campus computer network. Almost 7,000 computers from residence hall rooms, public computer areas, academic buildings and most administrative buildings are linked in the network. The computers supply access to course material, library catalogues and electronic mail, among other services. Loan Assistance
"I am encouraged that the faculty initiated and voted to accept this requirement," said Lawrence Levine, Dartmouth's director of computing. "This acknowledges the importance of computing and network services to the academic life of all students."
Incoming financial-aid recipients will now be offered access to the system with loan assistance up to the cost of Dartmouth's standard computer package, which costs about $350 a year over four years.
The institutions that have previously made computers mandatory are Drexel University in Philadelphia and Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.


  1. Yes, but are they requiring that said students know how to use computer technology?

    1. Back then, the internet was was a messaging system for a few thousand nerds. There was no Wikipedia, facebook, youtube or google. Issues of technology use were of a different order of magnitude. When I was first using computers in a college setting, it was around that time, slightly earlier. The "how to use computer technology" question was not, "Which information is reliable?" or "How do I focus in this jungle of garbage?" or "Is my personal data secure?" but "How do I code a paragraph break in this word processing software?"

    2. The shifting cultural issues around technology use even in the past ten years astound me.

      When I was in college and high school, personal computers were still "new" enough that everyone was learning them--everyone, including the teachers, was a student when it came to computer technology.

      Today, our cultural ideals of what it means to be proficient with technology have settled enough that students come to me having been told that they are "bad" at computers.

      That language just didn't exist when I was a student. Sure, there were technowizards that knew more than the rest of the plebeians, but that didn't mean everyone else was bad.

      Yet here we are with students who think they can't learn or master specific tasks because they are somehow genetically programmed to be "bad" at something that's only a few years older than them. I just don't share their opinion at that being a possibility, and in some ways I suspect this hurts the way we can communicate about the issue.

    3. When I was an undergraduate in 1977, the consultants who worked at the help desk in the computer center seemed so highly skilled. Anything you asked them about Pascal programming and they knew it instantly. They'd then give you a look of disdain, as if to say, "That's the best you got?"

      By 1987, none of them could tell me anything helpful. This is because they spent nearly all their time explaining how to use word processing and e-mail software, things I learned by reading the manuals.

      But then, I like most things better when I can still consider them my little private joke, before they hit the mass market. Two examples were first Star Wars film (when it initially debuted, before the merchandising went batshit) and the Grateful Dead (before they had their big hit song on the radio in 1987).

  2. I'm amazed
    at the date.

    1991 seems
    early for this.

  3. Nope, my brother was there and it was so.

  4. I was there in 1991, and they did indeed have every office and dorm room wired to an Appletalk network, it was impressive for its time. Believe it or not, too, the students were proficient in using this technology, partly because all the computers were Macs, but also because this was Dartmouth. Although it's true that Dartmouth is mostly attended by rich kids, these are rich kids with high SAT scores: ones with low SAT scores go to Bennington. Dartmouth is the perfect place to get an education if one intends to be a Goldman Sachs executive, or a hedge-fund manager, and be able to explain articulately why one deserves to make so much money by doing grievous harm to the American economy, and people like me. They'll be the first against the wall when the Revolution comes, and I will not miss them.

  5. Come the revolution, I hope to spare my brother by disguising him as an anarchist, but it's gonna be tough. He looks kind of like Don Draper on Mad Men. But he's the only Republican I love, and I do love him fiercely.

    1. My condolences for your brother, I hope it isn't too late for him to rehabilitate voluntarily. And of course, without Republicans, we'd have one-party rule, which of course will be no good in short order. I just wish that moderate Republicans, like both my parents were, weren't so rare these days. My Dad liked bilingual education (but of course he did, since he was a Spanish teacher), and my Mom was a staunch advocate of gun control. No doubt they'd both get called on the carpet today.

    2. Can you imagine what Bill Buckley would have said about Sarah Palin on a Harley?

    3. And it has not escaped my notice that proffies may, or may -not-, do well, when the Revolution comes. They didn't in the French revolution.


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