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Technology’s Pros and Cons

Technology’s Pros and Cons

Admit it. Go ahead. Don’t be ashamed. Names like Kazaa, Morpheus, Napster and Gnutella perhaps mean little, if anything, to you. But to Internet-savvy college students and frustrated university officials, such names are at the center of an ongoing conflict involving both the economics and the ethics of illegal downloading (or pirating) of music and videos from the Internet.
As Peter Galusza reports in our cover story “The War Over Internet Piracy,” many students make illegal use of high-speed computer connections owned by universities. And while the students are enjoying, copying and, in some cases, selling the latest tunes, administrators are scrambling to avoid potential lawsuits and fines. According to the recording industry, the practice has cost them up to $2.6 billion worldwide. While the recording industry’s financial loss is not a huge concern for most students or college officials, the issue of theft and its legal ramifications has caught many an illegal downloader’s attention.
In several ways, our cover story speaks to both the good and bad of technology, which is the focus of this special edition. Technological advances undoubtedly enhance our lives. However, such improvements often bring a new set of issues to tackle and situations to encounter. I doubt the president of Penn State University imagined consorting with the heads of entertainment entities such as the Motion Picture Association, Warner Music Group, or Paramount Pictures in order to provide the best learning environment for the university’s students. Yet, that is exactly what has been needed to help find a solution to the Internet piracy issue.
Technology also is playing a part in the debate over academic freedom on many campuses. Assistant editor Kendra Hamilton reports on the controversy surrounding, a Web site devoted to policing professors accused of harassing conservative students in their classrooms. While the Web site’s founder believes she is providing a public service and advocating students’ rights, some of the professors who have been the subject of criticism on the site see things differently.
An ongoing issue, and one that Black Issues has made a priority to investigate and track, is the underrepresentation of some minority groups in science and technology. Senior writer Ronald Roach reports on the picture of engineering education in the feature story “Losing Ground.” Although there have been increases over the years in the number of Blacks, Latinos and American Indians enrolling and graduating from engineering programs, the numbers do not line up with increases in the overall student population. While it may appear to be just a matter of choice — these students are just choosing to pursue other fields — educators and policy-makers know better, questioning the ability of engineering schools to recruit and retain these students as well as assessing the long-term impact of their absence in the national economy. 

Robin V. Smiles
Associate Editor

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