|To the editor of The Enterprise:
Your October 18 article about mandate laptops in the Massachusetts public colleges ("Mandated laptops get mixed reactions") is an excellent presentation of the factors that the Board of Higher Education had to consider when reaching its decision on this matter. Despite the very legitimate concerns that were very well articulated by the students you interviewed, I commend the BHE for taking this stand.
As part of its decision-making process, the BHE task force visited Bridgewater State College earlier this year. Our Chief Information Officer Bill Davis, whom you cite in your article, asked me and some other professors to present just a few of the ways in which computer technology is enhancing instruction across all disciplines.
The impressive computer labs at Bridgewater are necessary but not sufficient to allow continued improvement in the technology-enhanced learning. I encounter three types of students in the geography courses I teach at Bridgewater: those who avail themselves of technology available on campus, those who have computer technology at home, and none of the above. This third category includes working students who can afford neither the time to be on campus nor the money to buy a computer.
As someone who balanced work and school through three college degrees, I can appreciate the time and financial pressures that these students face. My experience in business tells me, however, that computer literacy is as important as anything else that is learned in college. At the moment, the most ambitious faculty are hampered somewhat by those students who have not yet had the opportunity fully to embrace the technology.
The purchase of a laptop may seem like a significant investment, but it is a minor percentage of the total cost of an undergraduate education, when direct and opportunity costs are considered. The BHE plan will put students on an equal technoligical footing, and will allow professors to move forward with more certainty about their students' capabilities. Less time will be wasted with system compatability concerns so that more time can be spent on learning. I know that Bill Davis and his counterparts at the other public institutions will do everything possible to ease the financial impact on students and to build on the strong existing computer infrastructure on our campuses.
The current proposal puts me in the unusual position of whole-heartedly
supporting an action of the Board of Higher Education. I write "unusual"
because the very creative and hard-working state college faculty continue
to work without a contract and to receive inadequate pay relative to comparable
JAMES HAYES-BOHANAN, PH.D.