Towson State dorms to get cable TV, data lines School sees financial, academic benefit

April 12, 1993|By Melvin Durai | Melvin Durai,Contributing Writer

Students at Towson State University soon will be able to watch Cable News Network and enter the university's computer network from the comfort of their rooms.

The university is installing wiring for cable TV and computer data transmission in most residence halls and academic buildings.

The reasons are financial and academic. Faced with decreasing occupancy rates in residence halls, the university is upgrading its services to compete with off-campus housing.

But the wiring of the campus also will improve the quality of education inside and outside the classroom, said Cheryl Frederick, project manager and associate director of academic computing.

"What we're doing is laying the infrastructure that will take us at least 15 to 20 years into the future," she said.

Bell Atlantic will handle the job at a cost of about $1.5 million. Bud Reott, director of academic computing, said the project will be financed through the university's operating budget and won't result in an increase in tuition.

The computer lines to the residence halls will allow students with personal computers to enter the university's computer network without the use of a modem, a device that allows computers to communicate over telephone lines.

The university has a bank of only 15 modems for resident students and commuters, and students have complained that the modem lines are often busy. With the new network, students in computer-wired rooms will be able to communicate four times as fast as they could over phone lines, and more modems will be freed for use by commuters.

Ms. Frederick said the university hasn't decided how many rooms will have computer wiring. Students will have to request rooms that are wired for computers, and she said there may be an additional charge for them. The university is looking into the possibility of renting computers to students.

"The computer room isn't open 24 hours a day, so it will be beneficial to students," said Jennifer Kelly, president of the Student Government Association.

The wiring of the school's academic buildings will make it easier to use computer data and video for instruction.

"There's a real push in higher education now for fully integrated multimedia instruction," Ms. Frederick said.

Permanent video monitors in some classrooms will allow professors to use a remote control videocassette recorder system, to feed videos to their classrooms from a bank of VCRs in the library.

Some auditoriums will be equipped with video cameras, which will usher in the concept of distant learning, Ms. Frederick said.

Video from the auditoriums will be distributed to students in the dormitories and eventually to other institutions or students in rural areas.

"The ultimate goal of the state of Maryland is to have all of education tied into a video and data network," Ms. Frederick said. "We feel like we're one step ahead."

Richard Rose, director of telecommunication systems and operations for the University of Maryland System, said that Towson State will have "one of the best wired campuses because they will be able to take advantage of the latest technology."

While the academic portion of the project may take a few years to completely implement, cable TV will be in the residence halls this fall.

The university will use two satellite dishes to pull in ESPN, CNN, MTV and other stations that are available without descrambling JTC equipment or fees.

No premium stations will be offered, and students won't be charged for the service, said John Root, assistant director of auxiliary services administration.

"With enrollment down and residency down, Towson needs to compete with the local housing," said Ms. Frederick. "Data's great, but people want their [cable] TV."

Students had mixed reactions.

Koli Banik, a junior and former dormitory resident assistant, said that some students in her residence hall moved from campus just so they could receive cable TV.

"Many students complained that they didn't have good reception," she said.

But senior Steve Cohen said the main reason students move off campus is to gain more freedom.

"If you live on campus, you have to obey all the regulations," he said. "I can get cable off campus."

Freshman Amanda D'Wynter agreed: "I think cable TV will be a nice addition, but I don't think it will keep people on campus."

Dan Danckaert, a junior, is looking forward to watching CNN.

"It would be nice to turn on something other than daytime soaps," he said.

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