Almost a decade after wireless Internet was first installed on Georgetown’s campus, University Information Systems has finally announced that it will make wireless access a reality in all of Georgetown’s residence halls by the end of the 2010-11 academic year. This has been a long time coming for Georgetown, and UIS deserves praise for finally committing to providing students with what is, in today’s world, a necessity. Now, however, UIS must follow through.
This fast-tracked program is a heartening reversal of the University’s long-standing reluctance to invest in technology. Just this past spring, Associate Director of Academic and Information Services Donna White told students at a January town hall meeting that “Georgetown is never going to be on the leading edge. We’re never going to put ourselves out there when the technology is thrown at us.” Citing the high cost of investing in new technology, Georgetown was essentially mortgaging its future for marginal cost savings.
More encouraging is the deadline set by UIS for this upgrade, the end of the academic year. As UIS makes advances, students will be notified of the progress of each building’s installation. This increased transparency and accountability is a step in the right direction for a department historically plagued with vague and ambiguous timetables.
But the eventual completion of a campus-wide high-speed wireless network should only be considered a first step in improving Georgetown’s woefully inconsistent on-campus technology. After completing the wireless upgrades, UIS should continue to look for ways to correct the other technical inadequacies that plague Georgetown. The majority of students still do not enjoy benefits like a fully functional tech center and access to the complete slate of Google Apps through their University email accounts. Georgetown administrators should work with students and faculty to correct these issues—and they can start by improving the functionality of MyAccess, the University’s catchall student services client. MyAccess has the potential to be a useful tool for everything from searching for classes to paying bills online, but more often than not the service is a headache to navigate, especially during pre-registration.
The promise to finally bring wireless access to Georgetown’s living spaces is laudable, but it comes far too late to be considered a complete success. Time will tell if this initiative is a turning point in the way Georgetown prioritizes technology or simply a single achievement within a long record of underperformance.