If you’re a student at the University of Massachusetts like I am, you’re most likely familiar with Eduroam, the school’s infamous wi-fi network. We’ve all been there: you sit down to do some homework or submit an assignment on Moodle and your laptop won’t connect to the internet. If you’re me, you restart your computer over and over to no avail. You then decide to re-register your device and that still doesn’t work. By this point, you’re probably banging your head against a wall trying to run XpressConnect and use the wi-fi. I usually end up calling the information technology department and sometimes I can get it to work again. Other times, it’ll be days before I can get my phone or my laptop to connect to Eduroam again. Even while writing this article, I’m having trouble getting online.
This is a typical experience for a student at UMass. When I first got to UMass, I was required to pay a technology fee that was built into my tuition and fees for attendance. As a college student in 2017, internet access is essential for almost every part of my day—I’m writing this piece in a Google Document right now. So many professors are utilizing programs like Moodle and Blackboard to engage students in new ways and facilitate turning in assignments. I have taken major exams from a laptop and one of my biggest fears was my internet going out during the exam (thankfully, it did not).
We all joke about how Eduroam is terrible, slow and very temperamental—but this situation is no joke. As students, we pay a sizeable fee to ensure that we have the proper internet access that we need. The technology fee was $125 this year, which helps provide internet connection across campus, funds classroom equipment and new emergency blue lights.
Unreliable internet isn’t just a UMass issue, it’s a problem at colleges across the globe. A quick Google search of “bad internet access at colleges” brings up all sorts of forums like Quora, where students complain about slow internet connections. According to a study, state flagship campuses do not fare as well as schools with huge endowments, such as Harvard and Yale, but even these prestigious schools are not doing well. Little known schools like Lamar State College, Port Arthur and Delaware Technical and Community College, top the list of fastest upload and download speeds in the country. These are smaller schools with less students and fewer resources than UMass.
This study also compared state flagship universities, and UMass was found to have the second slowest downloading speed of all the state flagship universities that were examined. So, even when compared with schools of similar size and student population (and many with more students), UMass does not fare well.
We pour so much money into things like sports and our dining services, while we allow our campus to fall behind in the fast-moving field of technology. In 2016, a report found that student fees subsidize a substantial portion of UMass Athletics. While sports are an important part of college life, some of that money would be better spent on other parts of campus.
The IT department is doing their best with what they have—but they need more financial support so they can provide students with the internet we need and deserve.
UMass sells itself as a University on the rise, with its expanding infrastructure, growing student body and declining acceptance rate. We were recently ranked in the top 30 best public universities and have appeared on the list twice before. Yet technology is a crucial part of our education and as long as we don’t have proper access to it, our learning will be limited. As a school that is constantly building and expanding, more needs to be done to assist the students who are already here. Students and faculty alike depend on the internet to conduct research and communicate with their peers.
I’m not asking for the fastest and most amazing internet connection in the country—but I shouldn’t have to worry about being able to access Moodle every time I open my computer. As a college student who is already stressed about every other aspect of my life, the last thing I want to be doing is calling IT services every day.
Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]