[teknoids] Classroom networking shutdown at Chicago

Ressell, Ted m-ressell at uchicago.edu
Fri Apr 18 14:38:55 EDT 2008

Well, if many are so curious......

As those of you reading are probably aware, wireless and wired network
access was turned off in the classroom wing (not elsewhere) just before
the Spring quarter began here at the U of Chicago Law School in
accordance with the Dean and faculty's wishes.  This was done, with
everyone knowing full well, that wireless broadband existed as well as
wireless bleed-in from other areas in the Law School.  

After several weeks here's how things have played out:  Despite very
vocal outbursts from a small number of people it has mostly been a
non-event. Some of the students are quite unhappy about it and not shy
about letting the administration (and the world) know, some are unhappy
but silent, some just don't care, and quite a significant number seem to
be pleased with the policy.  The Dean hosted a town meeting largely
addressing this issue last week and dealt with numerous comments from
those wishing to vent about the policy.  Most of the comments, while
presented somewhat better and much more verbosely were basically, "I'm
an adult and if I want to surf the web in class and ignore the lecture,
I should be able to."  Only one person made any attempt at an academic
complaint and that was that sometimes people "zoned out" and needed to
send emails to their peers for them to fill them in on what they had
missed.  I found it rather ironic that he failed to realize that his
emails were certainly a distraction away from the lecture for the
recipient (perhaps they could email another friend, starting a chain
reaction?).  The fact is that, while we're ready if and when it does
happen, the faculty have not yet found a compelling pedagogical use of
the internet in our classrooms, so there is really no need to have it
present.  The wired connections in one room were left active for Lexis
and Westlaw training and there is plentiful wired and wireless access in
the rest of the Law School for the times when people are not in class.
Our central campus networking group is currently working on a system to
allow the wired connections in each room to be turned on or off at the
professor's preference.  This system will likely also be applied to the
wireless for the whole wing since isolating wireless to a single room is

When this was first proposed many people expressed opinions to me that
the decision would be quickly overturned due to an overwhelming
cacophony of complaints.  That has not been the case at all.  The Dean
feels even more strongly now that it was the right thing to do and the
cacophony never really materialized. While those reading the abovethelaw
blog, and now Slashdot (we're famous!), might think otherwise from those
sources, it has pretty much been business as usual, with a lot less
email and web browsing in class.  I've also had several queries from
other Law Schools indicating that their Deans were watching this
carefully because they were interested as well.  Based upon things here
so far, don't be too surprised if we're not the last Law School to do

Ted Ressell
Director of Information Technology
The University of Chicago Law School
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 702-5866
m-ressell at uchicago.edu

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