The time for tech?

Technology is the lifeblood of the modern university. At many schools, students now register online, hunt for campus jobs online, and have online discussions or postings for classes. The possible applications of technology to the university are probably endless. But Lawrence has not taken advantage of many of these possibilities, and the question of whether or not we should – let alone if we can – seems to remain unanswered. Is it time for a tech overhaul?More technology would undoubtedly expedite many notoriously slow, paper-based Lawrence practices. Imagine a Lawrence where your registration was online and your advisors could digitally sign the appropriate forms, or where pay cards were online, or where nearly every common area had wireless internet access. Textbooks would be bought and sold entirely online, and projects like the LU WebBoard could be expanded to place course content and discussions on the internet. Also, keycards could replace star keys, making it easier both to grant and to limit access to different parts of Lawrence as needed.

Of course, technology has its adverse effects. Internet security is precarious even without the latest technology, and while online forms and wireless internet would increase our convenience and improve the administration of the university, they also could create large security holes in the Lawrence network. The projects could be quite expensive and difficult to implement until both faculty and students are more used to planning their life on a computer screen.

But most importantly, how we implement technology will impact the social character of Lawrence, and it is our opinion that we must be reluctant to integrate too quickly some technology into the Lawrence campus. Do we want a university where advisors never need to see their advisees? Should we replace personal interaction with professors with a web page? Should we digitize administrative processes, and never interact with the administrators? It seems that the social cost of some technology would outweigh the administrative benefits, and that, with a sterile society, Lawrence would hardly be worth attending.

What we need, from administrators and students, is a vision and a plan for how to reconcile technology with Lawrence character. We can both benefit from and be damaged by technology; like many things, its impact lies in how we use it.