Students split over arts laptops

Andrea Wilson

When it comes to the technological edge sought by many employers, the University’s liberal arts students may have fallen behind.

“Villanova arts students just don’t have the computer skills that employers are asking for,” said sophomore Stephen McKnight, liberal arts senator of the Student Government Association.

In response to growing apprehension over the competitive job market, SGA is pushing for a liberal arts laptop initiative, similar to the one used by the College of Commerce and Finance, to help integrate computer skills into the curriculum.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has discussed a proposed laptop initiative over the years,” explained Rev. Kail Ellis, O.S.A., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Last semester, the College’s Strategic Planning Committee asked its Technology Committee to consider all aspects of the issue.”

SGA hopes to implement the program by 2007, though administrators have not decided if they want to proceed with the idea.

“It’s a good idea for a number of reasons,” SGA President and arts junior Maureen Holland said. “Arts students graduate without a lot of knowledge about computer applications.

“The job market is tight, and I think this is a disservice to our arts students that they don’t necessarily graduate with these skills.”

Sophomore Safeer Bhatti, another liberal arts senator who supports the initiative, said if executed, the program would probably cost students a few hundred dollars annually, including a warranty and technical support coverage. Students would receive new laptops every two years and would most likely return them at the end of their studies.

“If we could figure out a way for students to keep the laptops, we would be in favor of that,” Holland said.

Yearly tuition for the College of Commerce and Finance, which includes laptops, is currently $1,170 more than the tuition for the arts college. However, it is a misconception that the laptops are the sole cause of the difference. The extra funds actually support the higher salaries of the Commerce and Finance faculty as well.

Many arts students are against the initiative since it would take the choice of computer away from students. Some students are unhappy with the HP Omnibook XE3, the model currently issued by the College of Commerce and Finance.

“If they’re going to include more computer skills into courses, I think that’s good,” said Robert Manzanares, a sophomore arts student.

“But I don’t think they should require us to buy laptops.”

“Our goal isn’t to make students buy laptops,” said McKnight. “Our goal is to give them the skills they need.”

McKnight hopes that the debate over the laptop initiative will at least spur a gradual integration of computer skills into arts courses.

Holland said the idea may eventually expand to include the entire University, not just liberal arts students.

“I think the goal would be to have it reach as many people as possible,” she said.

Wake Forest University of Salem, N.C., recently instituted a universal laptop requirement for its students, and Bhatti and McKnight found the results of that initiative encouraging.

“On average, Wake Forest arts graduates are hired more and higher paid,” McKnight said.

Bhatti claimed the program at Wake Forest “has sufficiently increased scores of students and enhanced their curricular standards.”

Wake Forest was recently ranked 19th in Yahoo! Internet Life magazine’s survey of the most wired campuses in the United States.