Slow Internet speeds continue to affect academic life at Lawrence

Maija Anstine

Student complaints regarding slow Internet speeds have been frequently registered since the beginning of the term. Academic concerns have figured prominently in these complaints.
With many classes utilizing web-based assignments on Moodle or elsewhere, students have frequently been hindered from completing assignments or turning in papers by their deadlines. Some students have had issues loading and completing exams needed to get into graduate school.
“When you’re restricted by poor Internet, it’s kind of pathetic,” one student commented, “especially when Lawrence prides itself on being a university that’s really technologically advanced.”
This student pointed out the necessity for a speedy connection when working on honors projects and the other independent study opportunities that Lawrence encourages.
The most frequent complaint about the wireless connection among students is the time it takes to load videos on sites like YouTube. Leslie Fox ’11 commented that even her wired connection in Plantz is extremely slow.
“I have a hard time getting music and videos to download,” said Fox.
While the hindrance of slow download and streaming is often just an inconvenience, an increasing number of classes require students to watch videos or listen to musical pieces as assignments, and this has in some cases proved impossible. “It took me three days to watch a movie,” explained Wenjun Wang ’13.
Instructional Technologist Arno Damerow claimed, “The Lawrence University network could never be fast enough. Its performance, no matter how much bandwidth capacity has been purchased, could always be improved upon. My DSL line at home has better download speeds, but then I don’t have to share that with 1,500 other users.”
Faculty members, in general, haven’t been as affected as students. Assistant Professor and Co-director of Choral Studies Stephen Sieck commented that his connection here is much better than at previous schools. Professor of Psychology and Henry Merritt Wriston Professor of the Social Sciences Peter Glick commented that his connection is “slow sometimes.”
The discrepancy between faculty and staff opinions could be due to bandwidth shaping, which means that faculty get bandwidth priority during the day for maximum capabilities.
“As compared to other college systems I’m familiar with, the LU network speed and reliability is above average,” Damerow asserted.
An ITS staff member attributed bandwidth issues to the large freshman class. “It put a lot of strain on an already pretty strained system.” Director of Information Technology Services Steven Armstrong explained in the Oct. 1 issue of The Lawrentian that these issues are also exacerbated due to increased high-definition requirements from sites like YouTube and Hulu.
“The whole network isn’t very well put-together,” the staff member continued, explaining that Lawrence’s initial installation of the wireless network was a learning process for the person who set it up.
Students shouldn’t hold their breath for a better connection, because improvements are not at the top of administration’s list of priorities. Other projects, like webmail upgrades and the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center renovations, have come first. Plus, one staff member observed, too few students have complained vehemently enough.