Bringing Computer Work Home

Clackety-clack, clackety-clack, all day long.

In dorm rooms, in house labs, in science center kiosks--a high percentage of students own and use computers on campus, according to a recent survey conducted by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Computer Services (HASCS).

Ninety-five percent of 1,557 students polled said they own a computer on campus. Although students are not required to purchase a computer for their room, the College recognizes the convenience they afford students, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

"The letter that goes to admitted freshmen advises them of the utility of computers and the limited scale of computer labs in the freshman dorms," Lewis wrote.

Most students agreed that having computers in their rooms makes life much easier.


Not owning a computer "would be extremely inconvenient," said Frank E. Pacheco '99, Adams House Committee Chair, said during a brief interview in the Science Center Macintosh lab. "You would be at a considerable disadvantage."

But Michael J. Epstein '00, secretary of the Harvard Computer Society, defended the 5 percent of the student body who refuse to conform and purchase the digital demons.

"Computers are nice to have, but nothing really requires owning one," Epstein wrote in an e-mail. "Many people get by with using computer labs or their roommates' computers."

Indeed, HASCS survey results said about one-third of students polled often use their roommates' computers. In addition, between 80 and 90 percent of upper-class students use their House labs from time to time, even though practically all of those polled have computers in their rooms.

Again, it's a matter of convenience.

Pacheco, who spent Wednesday night in the Science Center printing documents for an extra-curricular, said he checks e-mail at his house lab "when [he's] around."

Lewis wrote that house labs were first intended for students without computers, but that their role has evolved and expanded over time.

"Students like to use computers in social spaces, where they can talk to and get help from fellow students," he wrote.

Epstein echoed Lewis' views on the applicability of House labs for cooperative endeavors, although he did not limit their use to course work.

"Labs are also good for group activities, like creating posters for student organizations and (gasp!) playing games," Epstein wrote.

Lewis added that the need for public computers has not diminished as more students purchase computers for their rooms.

"All those kiosks in the Science Center lobby and in Loker Commons have arrived in the past few years," Lewis wrote. "People need to check e-mail between classes and cannot stand to wait till they get back to their rooms."

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