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TECH briefs

Morris Brown College To Require
Laptop Computers This Fall
ATLANTA — Morris Brown College will require its students to buy laptop computers this fall, offering them at discount prices as part of school financial aid.
School officials say they believe Morris Brown is the first historically Black college in the nation to make laptops available for purchase to all its students, but not the first college to require them.
The school says it bought 2,750 laptops with 500-megahertz processors and six-gigabyte hard drives from Toshiba Corp. to resell to students. The computers will be offered at discount prices determined by students’ financial aid packages. They also will be offered to teachers.
Also this fall, students will be required to pay a $250 technology fee each semester.
Morris Brown is 119 years old and has about 2,000 students.

Some Colleges Blocking
Explicit Web Sites
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Some colleges are blocking sexually explicit Web sites and even penalizing students who continue to try to visit a banned site.
Lee University has blocked Web sites for several years. When students reach a blocked site, they will see a seal with a watermark, says John Dixon, director of information systems at Lee University. A message appears saying the university has blocked the site.
“If a Web site doesn’t support our university’s mission, then there’s no need to have it available,” Dixon says. “We do the best we can to block sites that are not positive.”
Jody Brewer, a senior biology major at Lee, agrees with the policy. “I’ve heard of people trying to go to those sites. I have filtered Internet on my own computer.”
Henry Hicks, executive director of information systems at Southern Adventist University, says the university’s “main goal is to block pornographic sites. People can accidentally go to those sites,” he says.
Northwestern Technical College in Rock Spring, Ga., is looking into blocking software for its on-campus computers.
“We’ve had a lot of pornography and hack,” says Ted Glenn, director of information technology. “We’ve never had to do this before, but we’ve had problems with the computers in the lab.”
The Department of Technology and Adult Education in Atlanta monitors all Internet traffic in Georgia to make sure that people are not visiting explicit sites instead of working, Glenn says.
All colleges in Georgia are beginning to block Internet sites, and Northwestern is taking this very seriously, Glenn says.
For the first offense, he says students will be warned. If they are caught visiting a banned site a second time, they will lose their computer privileges. A third time, they risk being suspended.
Some schools, such as Lee, also block sites that use a lot of bandwidth out of concern for the cost of bandwidth and how much space is taken up for pleasure, rather than education.
“It’s resource allocation,” Dixon says. “If you only have so much space to get data back and forth, it makes sense for one to reserve that space for pertinent information.”
However, he says exceptions can be made if a faculty member needs to use a blocked site for research.

Ohio State President Urges
$2 Billion Technology Investment
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The president of Ohio State University urged the state last month to invest $1 billion to $2 billion in technology over the next five years or risk falling behind in the information-age economy.
The state’s share of that investment should be at least $100 million a year on top of current technology funding, Dr. William Kirwan told Columbus business, education and political leaders. The rest would come from private industry and federal grants.
“The experience around the country is that gradualism and half-measures won’t work,” Kirwan says. “Anything less than a major effort ensures that we will forever be behind the curve, struggling to catch up.”
Kirwan cites statistics that show Ohio’s personal income ranking has declined from sixth in the nation in 1960 to 22nd today.
Meanwhile, the state ranks 28th in Internet use, 29th in the number of high-growth companies and 32nd in the creation of high-tech jobs, he says.
The increased funding would hire top science and technology professors, build research facilities, increase venture capital funding and provide infrastructure for the computer age, Kirwan says. It also would help keep Ohio’s best students in the state for their college educations and careers.
Gov. Bob Taft favors investment in technology, but questions where the state would find the money that Kirwan wants, according to Taft spokeswoman Mary Anne Sharkey.
Ohio’s top financial priority now is responding to the state Supreme Court’s May 11 decision that Ohio’s school-funding system is unconstitutional, Sharkey says. The court said the system relies too much on local property taxes, creating disparities between rich and poor districts.
House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson agrees with Taft, saying she applauds Kirwan’s initiative but questions where the state would get that much money so soon.
Kirwan says the state is making some progress, including Taft’s creation of a fund to provide early funding for commercially promising technologies and a new law that lets professors participate in businesses arising from their research.
He also notes that Ohio will spend more than $450 million from the national tobacco settlement on biomedical research.
Kirwan says lawmakers must look past fixing existing problems and make technology funding a priority.
“We have to invest in the well-being of the citizens of the state,” he says. “And with the current state of the economy and with some surpluses, we can, if we have the will, find the money to make those investments. You cannot ignore the future.”      

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