March 5, 1995 in City

Whitworth Students Get Wired In Dorms Computer Ports Will Let Students Connect To World From Rooms

Virginia De Leon Staff writer

Whitworth College students won’t have to leave their dorm rooms this fall to get information from all over the world.

After the university installs individual computer ports this summer, students will be able to access the Internet and other information resources from their own rooms - no modems needed.

“This residence hall network will give Whitworth students access to a wide variety of information resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Ken Pecka, Whitworth’s associate director for academic computing.

The computer ports will connect students to Whitworth’s new fiberoptic network, which now reaches about 45 percent of its classrooms and offices.

Inside the 12 dormitories, about 910 ports will be installed in individual rooms. Another 190 ports will be installed in residence hall lounges and computer labs. Off-campus students will be able to access the campus network through modems.

About 800 students live in Whitworth residence halls, and Pecka estimates 40 percent own computers. He expects the number to increase after the network is installed.

Whitworth is the first college in the area to install ports in all of its residence halls.

Gonzaga University expects to wire one of its dorms to the Internet by next semester, but connecting the other 10 may take another two or three years depending on the funds available, said Leonard Hermens, associate professor of computer science.

Once the network is installed, Gonzaga students will have access to various software and Internet services.

“Students won’t have to purchase software or go to labs. … But the biggest benefit (of the network) is the safety issue,” said Hermens. “Female students don’t often feel safe about being out in the computer lab late at night. With the network, they can work from their dorm rooms.”

Washington State University will have all of its residence halls wired to the network by winter semester, said Tom Mueller, director of information technology.

The installation of more than 4,000 ports in individual rooms is part of WSU’s Communication Infrastructure Renewal project, which will connect the entire campus.

“This is a complex project because it involves every building on campus,” said Mueller.”Some are old, some are new and we have to get the right cables for each one. … We did not want to do this more than once in a lifetime.”

The University of Idaho also plans to install ports in all of its residence halls. Work on a campus-wide computer network will begin this summer, said Fritz Hibbler, director of academic and administrative computer services.

Depending on funding, Hibbler expects the project’s completion in 10 to 12 months.

On-campus students at Eastern Washington University may have to wait awhile before ports are installed in residence halls.

“We’re planning for it in the future,” said EWU’s public information officer Stefanie Pettit. “We’ve had a number of budget cuts so there isn’t enough money right now.”

Despite the absence of ports, EWU students can access the Internet from dorms with their own computers and modems.

Installing and supporting a network for dorm rooms isn’t cheap.

Hermens estimated the cost at Gonzaga at $200,000.

Wiring the Whitworth residence halls will cost $300,000-$350,000, which includes money for user support personnel and a network manager, said Pecka.

To help pay for the network’s installation and support, Whitworth students will be charged a $200 fee. The mandatory fee will be applied initially toward the network, but will eventually be part of the costs of room and board, said Pecka.

To configure their computers to the ports, Whitworth students must also buy a network interface card that costs about $75 to $150, depending on the kind of computer they own. New configured computers will also be sold at the bookstore.

Gonzaga and WSU have not yet tackled the issue of increasing students’ residence hall fees to pay for a network. Once the network is installed, Gonzaga students who wish to hook up will have to buy an interface card, Hermens said.

Services that will be available through the Whitworth network include Mosaic, a program that allows the user to view photographs, artwork, sound and video; Gopher client software, a menu-based system to explore Internet resources; and Usenet, an electronic bulletin board.

Although network connections in the dorm rooms can be both practical and educational, there is a chance some students could abuse the system, said Hermens.

Students may take up too much network time playing games or browsing the bulletin boards, which may prevent others from accessing the system and doing work, he said.

Mueller acknowledged that problems such as hacking may occur, but pointed out that most people who abuse the system are identified and may get their privileges revoked.

“We know that when we put this (Internet access) in the hands of some very imaginative people, we get things that we’ve never dreamed of,” he said.

Copyright, privacy and licensing issues involved in the use of some of the programs at Whitworth are currently under discussion, said Pecka.

xxxx Getting connected The computer ports will connect students to Whitworth’s new fiberoptic network, which now reaches about 45 percent of its classrooms and offices.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email