The Chronicle’s View: New Computer Policy A Double-Edged Sword

By and

There are five student computer labs on campus, but oddly enough, U students must often endure exceedingly long waits to utilize them.

It’s not because every student on the hill is clamoring to use one?it’s just that those who do are increasingly forced to compete with the local high schoolers and others who get to them first. Annoying to be sure, but even more so considering that an undergrad taking 15 credit hours pays about $95 in student fees for the privilege, while the high school interlopers are usurping these computers for free.

Needless to say, more than a few disgruntled students peeved about not being able to research and type up their latest essay assignment have complained about the situation.

Now U administrators are doing something about it.

By Fall Semester, a U-issued identification number and a student-selected password will be required to gain access to the computers in these labs.

Not only will cutting off the unauthorized users free up the computers for actual U students, it will considerably ease the minds of administrators worried that the university is violating contractual terms with software providers by allowing anyone other than U students and faculty access to the programs on the computers.

Obviously, this situation is a boon to those deserving people seeking access to these computers, and so the U officials responsible are to be commended for taking the necessary action.

However, it is not a perfect situation. With a specific login for each U student/employee required, the potential to monitor their activities exists. While these same-said officials tout this as an effective means of limiting rampant hacking into the U’s system, or at least facilitating punishment of those caught doing it, such a system also seems rife for creating some murky privacy issues, should a few proctors get a bit voyeuristic.

Once this ID and password system is implemented, the U must establish that it is in place solely to ensure easy access for its rightful users and to protect records, rather than spying on the Web sites people visit. After all, people want a safe, convenient system, but not at the cost of having someone constantly look over their shoulder.