To hell with student safety, we’re gettin’ some iPods!

Some Duke students critical of iPods expense

Jane Stancill, Raleigh News and Observer

Julie Hutchinson, 21, a Duke University senior, is distressed that the

university is investing a large amount of money in iPods for freshmen, instead

of addressing campus security.

The announcement last week that Duke

University would give its freshmen free iPod digital music players sent a buzz

through the Internet, the airwaves and national news media.

Incoming

freshmen are giddy about the trendy door prizes they’ll get when they pass

through the entrance to the Gothic campus next month.

But not everyone is high-fiving the plan, which will cost Duke $500,000

combined with discounts by Apple Computer Inc.

Predictably, upperclassmen feel slighted by the first-year students’

good fortune. On an Internet bulletin board last week, one suggested envious

students bombard administrators with complaints: “GO BE PROACTIVE AND LETS GET

SOME iPODS.”

Others say the $500,000 could have gone to better use.

Julie Hutchinson, a Duke senior from Fuquay-Varina, is angry about the

iPod giveaway. But not because she wants one too.

Hutchinson has lobbied Duke administrators for three years for better

security on campus after one of her hallmates was sexually assaulted in a

dormitory bathroom. When she enters a bathroom now, she always checks the stalls

and showers to make sure they’re clear.

She would like to see electronic

card readers on all bathroom doors, as well as panic buttons similar to the ones

at N.C. State University. A Duke administrator once told her such things were

too expensive, she said.

“I think the iPods are ridiculous – a waste of money to begin with,”

she said. “If they can spend that much money on toys for freshmen — and the

fact that Nan [Keohane] raised $2 billion — they have enough money to make

changes for security.”

Duke spokesman David Jarmul said, in fact, a campus group has a plan to

improve security. He said new measures would be announced next month, but he

declined to give details. He said the changes would involve lighting, police

actions and awareness programs. “There are people working on that,” he said.

In the deal with Apple, Duke will buy 1,800 20-gigabyte iPods at a

cheaper rate than the $299 retail price. The university will distribute 1,650

iPods to freshmen and have 150 others to loan other students in classes where

the devices are used.

Duke is apparently the first university in the United States to give

its students iPods. The pocket-size audio players — commonly used to download

and store music — will be loaded with practical Duke information such as

calendars and schedules. Students also will be able to download course content,

including language lessons, recorded lectures or audio books.

After the

first year, Duke will study the effect of iPods on academics.

“We will be the first to agree that this is an experiment,” Jarmul

said. “We’re not viewing iPods as an entitlement for students….We want to see

evidence that the iPods have indeed been incorporated into the life of the

classroom and that they’re being used in ways that are not only innovative but

effective.”

In an e-mail letter to the Duke student body last week, administrators

said that the money for the project came from a strategic fund that the

university had designated for “one-time innovative technology projects.”

Tally Balaban, an incoming Duke freshman from Cary, was delighted to

learn she’d get a free iPod on orientation day. “Wow, that’s kind of nice,” she

said.

A classical music fan, she wasn’t quite sure of its academic

possibilities. “We’ll have to see how we’re going to use it,” she said.

Emily LaDue, a junior from Levittown, N.Y., said the iPod distribution

was “completely extravagant.” The money could have gone to more financial aid,

or books and school supplies for low-income students, she said.

But many Duke students are wealthy enough to own iPods already, she

said. “I’m sure a lot of them will just be selling them on eBay and making money

on them,” she predicted.

Some believe the focus on freshmen is unfair.

“We’re going into our last year and we’ve paid a high premium at Duke

for the last three years,” said Trent Corbin, a rising senior from Richmond, Va.

“We never received anything as we came in.”

He said the program was a way for Apple to capture new customers.

Libby Conn, a 2004 Duke graduate, said alumni have been chattering about it ever

since the iPod news came out.

“Everyone’s up in arms that we just missed it,” she joked. “I suppose

it’s great for freshmen. I’m not sure what educational use [iPods] will be put

to.”

Eric Vivier, a senior from Buffalo, N.Y., sees an interesting parallel

between the iPod program and some unusual purchases by Duke’s police department

last year. Duke officers now patrol the campus on pricey newfangled scooters

called Segways.

“They zoom around on campus,” Vivier said. “There seems to be a trend

of unnecessary, expensive toys.”

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