Want a college diploma without ever enduring the inconvenience and cost of attending a college? Plenty of providers are out there, ready to oblige.
For example, there's BackAlleyPress.com. Its spiel? "Our novelty diplomas are designed to look 100% authentic! We produce over 1,000 replica novelty degrees, diplomas, and transcripts from universities all around the world. Our designers have gone through painstaking efforts to try to make each of our documents look as exact as possible. Each document is customized and printed individually to your specifications, including degree, major, and school." Last year a reporter wrote of obtaining a Harvard diploma and transcript from BackAlley's Thailand office. Printing, the reporter said, was done by the Shun Luen Company of Shenzhen, China. A check of the internet as this was written found BackAlley still alive and kicking.
Lest some potential customers are too dumb or ignorant to track down a website on their own, the fraud merchants are reaching out on e-mail. This writer received the following exclamation-laden e-mail message in early summer:
Other e-mails arrived at about the same time, each bearing substantially the same message but with differing phone numbers. My associate called two of these numbers. Dialing the first, despite the promise of "24 hours" availability, resulted in a recorded message that the number was no longer in service. The second number led her into a voicemail box, requesting her name and number and promising a return call. The call came about a week later.
The caller identified himself as representing "Haywood University" in London. He offered my associate a "beautiful diploma" for $2,000, with a $500 discount if she "signed up right now." The diploma would be delivered within 10 days of receipt of payment.
How could she qualify for this "beautiful diploma?" she inquired. The degree would be based upon her work experience. "You create the credentials." But what sort of degree would it be? What field of expertise should she claim? "Are you a reporter?" he asked at this point. The discussion was ended soon after that.
A search of the name "Haywood University" produced two "Sponsored Sites." Both "www.e-degrees.org" and "www.internetcolleges.org" were compilations of online higher-education organizations, organized by the states where their services are available. The first of these sites says, "If you are interested in attending an online college you have come to the right place. We have identified the best ones in each state." The list of "Featured Schools" didn't include a Haywood University. And, in fact, a Netscape search of "English Universities" also failed to turn up a Haywood University. A Google search came back with the query, "Did you mean 'hayward university'?"
In short, if a Haywood University exists outside of cyberspace and the telephone lines, we couldn't find it.
Backalley.com and Haywood U. are only the most brazen of the barbarians massing at the gates of higher education's ivory towers. Unaccredited schools at all levels of legitimacy--or illegitimacy--comprise the less menacing bulk of this barbarian horde. They are rampaging not only on the internet, but in nations such as India, where regulation of higher education is weak or nonexistent.
In a world teeming with billions of "Spare Parts and Broken Hearts," to borrow a Bruce Springsteen tune title, the desperately unqualified will turn to these diploma mills for their sheepskin equivalents of the emperor's new clothes. When they do, they are not the only victims of such scams.
Cristovam Buarque, Brazil's minister of education, recently said, "In the face of [global] upheavals, the university still represents the intellectual heritage [that makes it] the most appropriate and prepared place to guide the future of humanity." Stirring words, but true only if the global network of legitimate colleges and universities protects and defends its integrity and reputation against the barbarians at our gates.
Jim Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and lawyer, is the Associate Provost at Rider University and author of the weekly newspaper column "Attorney at Large."
It's not enough to add shops. It's not enough to build housing. As universities all over the country are discovering, university-led urban revitalization is all about creating an environment where an institution and its neighboring community cannot only coexist, but also benefit from one another.
The University of Pennsylvania has occupied several core blocks in West Philadelphia since 1870 and has steadily revitalized and expanded its 269-acre campus over the past 134 years. Until the 1950s and the advent of "urban renewal," West Philadelphia had been a thriving neighborhood of Victorian homes and small businesses. Then, it gradually slid into decay in the 1970s becoming dilapidated and dangerous. As little as 15 years ago, it was not uncommon for students to be warned against venturing into certain parts of West Philadelphia. "The 1992-93 year was rock bottom," recalls Omar Blaik, senior vice president for Facilities and Real Estate Services at Penn. A student was killed and a professor was stabbed. Local businesses were closing, and students had to be bused downtown just to grocery shop. "The neighborhood was empty," Blaik recalls. About that time, Penn made the decision to engage in urban renewal in its pure sense, recreating a neighborhood of local shops and homes.
First, Penn had to address its campus issues. The Ivy League campus was designed to face inward toward the central tree-lined walkways and common areas and toward other campus buildings. "The buildings didn't even have street addresses. We were saying 'We're not part of this neighborhood,'" Blaik explains. Existing buildings were re-designed to have their main entrances on the city streets. The campus turned itself around and looked out over the neighborhood instead of turning its back on the streets. "We realized we cannot exist in a desert and imagine we are not part of what surrounds us," he says.
At the same time, the university put into effect its West Philadelphia Initiative, a five-pronged plan, developed with neighborhood input, to revitalize the struggling neighborhood and make it a livable, workable community. All five were implemented concurrently. The first issue was to make the environment cleaner and safer. The newly formed University City District, in partnership with other large entities like the University Hospital, began patrolling the neighborhood and organizing cleanup of graffiti and garbage.
To increase home ownership and decrease absentee landlordism, the university paid mortgage incentives of $15,000 to university employees who bought a house in the neighborhood, and $7,500 to homeowners who improved their existing property. By making ownership and beautification a priority, Penn hoped to increase the stability of the whole neighborhood and create a sense of pride in West Philadelphia instead of the perceived stigma. Penn also went out of its way to contract with local businesses for goods and services required by the university, such as laundry and catering. This policy of economic inclusion kept neighborhood money in the neighborhood, and went a long way toward convincing skeptics that Penn was sincere in its desire to do right by West Philadelphia.
"It took a lot of hard work to get the community to believe we weren't pulling a fast one," says Blaik. Building a new elementary school and turning it over to the public school district, while continuing to fund $1,000 per child helped, the cause. Creating a neighborhood where university employees would want to live goes a long way toward cementing the relationship between Penn and the neighborhood. "We live in the community. My kids go to the new public school. I am the community," says Blaik.
But the cornerstone of the entire approach was retail. In the 10 years since the initiative began, almost 40 new businesses have opened on Penn property. One development is located on what used to be the university border on West 40th Street, and the other is along the north side of campus, an outdoor urban shopping center called University Square. It contains the Hilton Inn at Penn above and shops like Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor Loft, and Barnes & Noble below. The university funded and built the $100 million project, which it now owns and operates. The latest addition, Cereality, a new food-service concept that touts "all cereal, all day, all ways," is opening its first sit-down cafe in University Square in November. The university acquired money to construct the project by floating bonds, while acquiring debt. Fortunately, the revenue from the retail rent is helping to pay the debt service.
Also on 40th Street, a 24-hour grocery store, movie multiplex, parking and restaurants, surround Smoky Joe's bar, a campus landmark. "When we initially put out the red carpet to the big grocery store chains," says Blaik, "no one wanted to come. We had to build an independent grocery from scratch." Penn knew that the purchasing power of the population was bigger than it looked on paper.
Neighborhood census numbers may have had the annual average income of the surrounding neighborhood set at $15,000, but that was only because so many of the residents are students and technically have no income. That didn't mean they didn't have money to spend. Now there's 24-hour activity. Hospital workers grocery shop after their shift, and students and residents come and go at all hours. This is a complete turnaround from the previous decade's "don't go out after dark" policy.
The new grocery store is earning $750 per square foot and the gross sales per year from the two developments has topped $200 million. Retail rents have gone from $7 per square foot to $20 per square foot with Penn owning the majority of space. "We've proved the concept, and now [retailers] are flocking to us," says Blaik, but it's not like the neighborhood had suddenly gotten rich. It was the result of diverting the money that had previously been leaking out to the shopping centers downtown and outside the city.
Penn worked with retail planners to recruit and maintain diverse and local retail tenants, and helped create a rich neighborhood tapestry by keeping unique buildings and creating new structures in harmony with the existing architecture. Despite all efforts, however, there are still mixed reactions to Penn's policies. Joyce White, a 30-year resident of West Philadelphia and an employee of the university's museum, is enjoying the benefits of increased property values and cleaner, safe streets. "I often feel I live in a heaven of some sort: sitting on the back deck of a home with three fireplaces and three sets of pocket doors, listening to the crickets and birds under old-growth trees, chatting with neighbors across adjoining yards, all within walking distance of my job at Penn," White says. Though she admits that she couldn't afford to buy in now that house prices are catching up with the rest of the city, she's glad the university is creating greener, safer streets. Others question Penn's right to "revitalize" a neighborhood that was in many ways already a vital and functioning community, and accuse Penn of co-opting the neighborhood and creating, in effect, a Penn colony. Those who can't afford to buy into the neighborhood, like George Poulin, a Drexel University architecture student, criticize Penn for creating "a yuppie enclave. It's great to see a neighborhood become so popular and well-maintained, but it's disheartening to know that I'll be left out of the picture because of my income level," Poulin says.
It isn't just the university benefiting from the retail boom on campus. Companies that set up shop on campus reap the rewards of not only the built-in foot traffic from students but from the neighborhood as well. Ken Redding, vice president of Business Development at Starbucks Coffee, says that Starbucks approaches a campus location as it would any other potential retail location. "It's all about studying traffic patterns," he says. "The two sources of traffic--student life and neighborhood--make them a good market." There are roughly 100 Starbucks on college campuses nationwide.
Redding sees the real potential for campus retailing about five years out. At the rate Starbucks is growing, the need for employees is getting dire. Starbucks is "looking to take a more holistic approach" to coffee on campus by setting up reciprocal arrangements with a university to develop cross-programming with the school and make Starbucks an attractive place for students to work. The hope is, that by having Starbucks on campus, it will be a way to get students into a Starbucks management track and use Starbucks as more than a way to sell coffee but as a management training ground.
When the University of Illinois at Chicago was looking to expand its campus and increase its profile as a desirable place to go to college, they looked south to a dilapidated area of boarded-up buildings and warehouses. The university had been slowly acquiring property over the years, but there was no coherent plan for what to do with it. "We wanted to give people a reason to stay on campus," says Ellen Hamilton, director of Real Estate at UIC. "The campus was virtually lifeless after 4 p.m. We wanted to populate it and create a 24-hour environment," she says. The university needed to become a neighborhood instead of just a school.
To that end, in 1995 UIC secured a master developer and created an overall plan for the purchase and development of the 80-acre area south of the existing campus. The redevelopment agreement was approved in 1997, and in January 2000 UIC started acquiring the property they did not yet own and began demolition and construction. Two 750-unit student apartment residences, a 750-unit dorm, 120,000 square feet of office space, and 80,000 square feet of retail space have all been built, as well as parking structures for hundreds of cars and 600-plus private for-sale housing units, all but 20 of which have already sold. As of now, the estimated $750 million project is currently 75 to 85 percent complete, with full completion, including the reservation of two land banks for future expansion, expected in 2008.
As a state university, UIC had to jump through several hoops and endure many rounds of approvals before the plan could go ahead. Permission had to be obtained before any land could be sold to a private developer. But UIC could clearly show that its expansion would help the city by increasing property tax revenue; the money from the taxes on the development would pay for the infrastructure of the entire project, while the housing and retail were funded by auxiliary bonds. The university took things one step at a time, meeting with neighborhood groups and making sure it was doing right by everyone involved.
To maintain the look and feel of the Chicago cityscape, eight unique old buildings had their facades adapted and restored instead of demolished. "They took them apart brick by brick and then put them back together on the face of the new building," says Hamilton. Style elements like these helped give the whole development a pleasing appearance that blends nicely with the surrounding area.
UIC also planned to attract big retail and create a mix of shops. "It isn't as if there weren't retail outlets in Chicago. It's not that we created a unique opportunity for shopping, it's just that now people didn't have to go and find it. It's right here," Hamilton says. And what's here? Caribou Coffee, Jamba Juice, Cold Stone Creamery, Cingular Wireless, 7/11, Post Net, Wells Fargo Bank as well as MidAmerica Bank, restaurants, a dry cleaner, a haircut joint, a mattress store, and more. The faculty especially is thrilled that Barbara's Bookstore, a Chicago institution, that holds author's events and generates a lot of traffic, is in a key location.
"I took a potential tenant on a tour of the South Campus," says Hamilton, "and took the risk of asking the tenants we met, 'How do you like being on South Campus?' I didn't know what they were going to say. But they all said it's great. It's nice to see people out walking with their babies. One tenant said that it had been difficult being the first in a new neighborhood but now things were going very well." It's clear that the new development is good for the city, good for the university, and good for the students and faculty to have a lively, more well-rounded campus. As Hamilton puts it, "We're proving we're in this for the long term by creating a real live-learn campus."
Kean: We're spending too much time on that. You can't be a good president doing all that. I might be a little old-fashioned, but I think the business of the college and the university is education. If you're being pulled off education, you're going to have trouble. You've got to do the others. You've got to get into the technology issues, they're too important for a president not to be aware of them. You've certainly got to do fundraising; it's too important for the university. But if they become your primary occupation, I think it probably hurts the academic enterprise.
Well, first I might say that I was fortunate enough to have six or seven universities or colleges who were interested in my coming for one reason or another, once I decided this was a direction I was interested in. I liked the idea of a small liberal arts college with an emphasis on teaching and mentoring as well as research, and where professors really can get to know students. I picked Drew because it very much had that philosophy and had a very strong commitment to the liberal arts. And because, frankly, it enabled me to come to a place that was a short distance from my home.
Well, you get hit with some real problems that have to be solved and you can't put off. And they become your priorities for a while because they have to be done. And then you have a long-term vision, but you're not able to get at that for a year or two until you solve the more immediate problems.
When I came, we had a budget deficit. You can't have a budget deficit. I had to immediately get a hold of the budget and straighten it out. And we haven't had a budget deficit since. We also had a gym which was like a high school gym. And it was an embarrassment: an embarrassment when the other teams came, here, and an embarrassment when prospective students visited. Students had been promised a new gym for, oh, 15 years, and it wasn't ever going to happen. So, in my first year or two, I had to say we're going to have a first-class gym because I want to attract great people to this university to speak. We had no place for them to speak. So we build a forum on top of the gym that holds about 1,000 people. So I've been able to have ex-presidents and Colin Powell and Tom Brokaw are coming this year. That was the beginning of putting a little bit of my own priorities on things.
Any student who wants to come in and chat with the president can do so any week. We hold them at different times because we don't want to do it when students have classes or athletics or whatever, so every week it's a different time.
Yes, whatever they want to talk about. And students are wonderful. They talk about everything and ask me why I haven't been to a rugby game this year...to a student who talked about his father being very sick and lost his job and the student didn't know if he'll be able to graduate now because his family can't afford it. It's everything. It enables me to put out small fires before they become large fires because the students will come in and say--this is a problem. And you find out about it, you bring in the resources to eliminate it before it becomes serious.
You need interventions, particularly in those first couple of years. I think this goes for all schools. More and more students have some kind of a problem. It can be a learning disability, for example. These are not things that they have put down on their admissions applications, so you find out about them when they get here. Unfortunately, more and more students are picking up bad habits, particularly alcohol habits, back when they were 14 or 15 years old. So they come into college already with a drinking problem and you've got to deal with that. Some students have, unfortunately, some very difficult family problems. We find here that students who come from an inner city, often on scholarship, really need somebody there for them every day and if you are there for them every day, they will stabilize; they will do well and they will graduate, often with honors. But if you're not there, you lose them and we work very hard at that.
I believe, we were one of the first, before it became fashionable, to give every student a computer. We've been technologically wired on this campus for a long time. It is very common for faculty and students to correspond at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. For a student who has a problem, he or she feels they can message that faculty member and get a message back. In the course that I teach, I can tell you which students are into theater, which students are into sports, which students may or may not have a problem. I can intervene if there's a problem and that's the philosophy here. I think we have a very good graduation rate because of that.
Was every professor really into it by the time I got here? No. When I came here, people said the theological school is going to be a problem for you on technology. Well, the theological school, thanks to an energetic dean, took the leadership...first ones here to have online courses, a cyber cafe--the theological school jumped ahead of everybody else. Because of that early leadership, I didn't have the kind of problem that many other university presidents have had. I mean, by the time I came, we'd been into it (technology) for 10 years,
It's always a combination, I think, but the skills are very transferable. I mean, you've got to have skills to work with the faculty and the alumni and the students and the trustees, and they're all different groups. I had many more constituency groups than that to work with as governor. If you think the faculty is difficult, try working with the state legislators of the other party. The faculty was easy compared to that. I had no problems ever with the faculty. We've always gotten along well because we understand the idea of shared leadership. I mean, I understood very clearly, as governor, that when I was dealing with the Democratic state Senate that I wasn't going to say, "This is my idea and you'd better deal with it."... I had to bring senators in and say, "What do you think of this idea, would you buy into it?" If they'd buy into it, you give them the credit for it and it's their bill, not your bill. So it's a very interesting set of skills, but they're the same. They're really the same.
Let me tell you the biggest change, and this is not just in the 10 years or so that I've been here, although part of this change has occurred in that period. The biggest change from my own time as a student was when we wanted to make change, we marched, we demonstrated. I marched with Dr. King. We would go down to Washington and we'd march, and we'd come back home again and we'd go back to our classes or whatever. This bunch of students is not interested in that because they don't think it matters. They don't think you make much of a difference that way. What they do think is that you make a difference as individuals.
We have a very large chapter of Habitat for Humanity here where kids go to take their vacations. We had another group that volunteers to work at an orphanage in Honduras. We have students who tutor kids in Newark. We have other students who teach English to immigrants. They believe in individually working with people.
They do feel helping kids grow up decently and get an education does make a difference.
The change that is negative is access because of overcrowding, and combined with the rise in cost it is very dangerous right now because I think it is starting to price-out people who are qualified. Now, we've gone from grants to loans. If you're poor, you can't get the loans. I think that's wrong in a democracy. In the past, you were in trouble if you didn't have a high school education. Now, if you haven't got a college education, you're condemned...you're condemned to a less than satisfactory life, for you and for your family.
For any president, the most important and valuable commodity you have is your time. Because of the complexity of the job, you can get pulled off in 15 different directions every day and end up working very, very hard but not being terribly productive. And as a new president, you have to understand the people you're going to be working with. Faculties have their own personalities and you've got to get to know them.
Faculties all have leadership individuals, the people who just simply are listened to more in faculty meetings either because of their age or their competence or the respect they have among their colleagues. Make sure that you get to know them a bit. I think presidents neglect students who are, after all, the customers. I think because they get pulled so far in other directions. I don't think presidents are spending enough time on their campuses with students and student activities.
And, by the way, I differ from some university presidents, but I think teaching is important. I think teaching is what the institution does.
Yes, and I think that's what we do. First, teaching enables you to understand the faculty better, and they love it when they see me with a pile of papers under my arm, grumbling that I have to correct them all tonight. Second, teaching gives you a group of students that you know particularly well and talk to you about what's going on at the university. It keeps you intellectually going. I know some presidents do that, some don't, but I would recommend to any new president to think seriously about teaching.
I teach one three-hour seminar on Mondays because if I tried to do it another day, I would get pulled off campus too much and I might miss classes. I don't ever miss a class, so I just set aside three hours on Monday, every Monday.
Absolutely. I think, in a university atmosphere, you've got to have transparency. You have to be able to explain, particularly to the faculty, what you're doing, why you're doing it. You have to work with the faculty on committees in order to put together their budget so that they buy into it. It's a totally open process so that everybody knows every dollar coming in and every dollar going out. The final budget here is placed on e-mail so that every student can look at it, every person in the community can look at it, before it's adopted. Then we have a town meeting and people can come and weigh in. So, by the time the budget comes to the Board of Trustees, the whole community has an opportunity to have an input into every bit of it. And the result is I've never had a problem or a fight about the budget since I started that method.
Yes. When I came here, the previous philosophy was the budget was a secret.
The difficulty was that as the Commission started taking more and more time, my first impetus was to say to the trustees, maybe I ought to take a sabbatical. So I just decided that I couldn't have done the Commission work unless I had hired very, very well.
I have a group of administrators here which I would match against anybody's. So if I was in Washington and I called in twice a day, I knew the place was going to run like a top and it had one of its best years last year. I came back and said, you do better without me. But I think that's one of the things also that presidents have got to recognize--they've got to know how to delegate and they've got to bring in the right people.
If you're really good at who you bring in, you don't have to spend as much time on a lot of these issues. If you've hired well, people know what your priorities are, they will do it for you. They will take care of the priorities.
I actually am very disappointed in most of my colleagues in this respect. Not in the respect of being great college presidents necessarily. There are a lot of them out there who are. But in years past, you could think of a number of college and university presidents who took major roles in the life of this country. And I don't see that anymore.
I've mentioned that point to some of my colleagues and what they tell me is that, you know, if you say something to the right, your students are mad at you. And if you go to the left, the trustees get mad at you.
That's not an excuse. I believe that university presidents are some of the finest and most able people in this country. And not to take public positions on important issues, not to take leadership of important commissions and committees, not to get out there in the life of the democracy, I think that's a terrible example for their students.
I've said this to my colleagues, telling university presidents that once you get outside of your campus, you really are quite respected. And you could make a difference. You could make a real difference.
They're in those positions because they are positions of strength. I know university presidents who are among some of the most able people I've ever been associated with. Great backgrounds. They have to get out there into the light of the democracy because if they don't, they're poorer for it, the universities are poorer for it, and certainly the students are getting a bad example.
For a university president to say I'm not going to get involved in this issue because it might make somebody mad is not leadership, really not leadership. These are institutions of change.
I've taken on more controversial stuff. Personally, I don't believe people should be running around with guns, the semi-automatic weapons. I've taken very strong positions on that.
I get letters from alumni saying they'll never contribute to the place as long as I'm there. But they're your principles. Is that a reason for a university president not to say anything because two or three alumni are going to get mad? I think it's a way to engage the debate. And if we're not going to speak out, who is?
That's my only criticism. I wish they would be out there more, taking more positions on more issues and showing leadership, not only in the university but outside the university.
I don't know. I've been the university president longer than I've held any other job. And I decided about a year ago that this should be my last year because the university is in better shape than it's ever been in. I'll see what comes along. I've got probably one more job left in me. What it'll be, I just don't have any idea.
If I could help, yes. Full-time, probably not. I don't think I want to go down to Washington, but if it's a part-time thing or something where I could be an advisor or help government in some way, yes. It's an obligation as a citizen to help out.
Last month, we looked at three necessary cautions that must be addressed before you can begin to plan your budget. Developing an effective and sustainable integrated marketing budget likely depends more on the decisions that were made when shaping the plan than the actual activities in the plan.
Campus computing has become an annual contest among an ever-growing number of technologies competing for the IT purse. As the new academic year bursts from the starting gate, some of the leading horses this year are not the usual contenders. Wireless networking, after a lot of talk and pilot projects, is now a must-have service. Legally obtained music appears ready to figure importantly in the muddy battle over file sharing. Spam has nosed ahead of viruses this fall as the enemy of campus network performance. Handheld devices are gaining credibility as important players in the "new" campus infrastructure. None of these horses is new to the IT scene; they have all matured to challenge the traditional contestants: computers, software, and support services.
Where IHEs have not deployed wireless access points, campus community members are now quick to fill the gap on their own dime. Anyone with $100 to spend can get a wireless router and open an access zone for a whole department or a good part of a dorm. Apple's AirPort Express, listing at $129, offers a combination of wireless internet access, music streaming, and printer sharing. Meanwhile, the campus IT organizations are preferring to supply the wireless access points of their own choosing. Many that use Cisco Systems, for example, are replacing access devices from other manufacturers with Cisco's Aironet series, which varies in cost from $500 to $1,300 but has the advantage of being well integrated with Cisco routers and switches, and so making management of wireless access zones easier to accomplish at the central network control points.
Wireless networking is a prime example of the technologies that are transforming campus computing from the "outside." Manufacturers are marketing directly to the public, keeping the technology inexpensive and easy to install. The downside for campus IT support units is that wireless signal strength fluctuates and behaves in ways that only a radio engineer can sort out. Many help-desk calls this fall are appeals to fill gaps in wireless coverage and to fix (or at least explain) variances in signal quality.
The recording industry's race to overtake music file sharing and copyright infringement has been joined by the emergence of commercial download sources. Apple's iTunes music store and runaway hit iPod player have set the pace for legal music, with songs selling for 99 cents and audio books and music videos now included in the iTunes inventory. The iPod players cost $300 to $400, depending on the model.
Apple's success has spurred Napster to offer a music "rental" service at $14.95 per month, supplementing its 99 cents per song offering, which was the breakthrough business model for legal distribution of music via download. Napster 3.0 uses a technology termed "Janus" that keeps track of the subscription period and then disables the music files when the rental expires.
In the late summer, RealNetworks started its challenge to the front-runners, offering songs at 49 cents. Its Rhapsody service offers subscription access to music at $9.95 per month. STARZ! supplies video downloads for $12.95 per month for customers with Internet connections running at 600 kbps or higher.
Whether the proliferation of these outlets will finally rein in illegal downloading and file sharing remains to be seen. Colleges and universities face continuing pressure from the media industries to block file sharing and to persuade their campus communities to respect copyright for music, video, games, and software. The legal, low-cost sources hope to win over many of those network users who still take their chances with illegal sharing.
Unwanted e-mail shows no sign of weakening as a burden to campus mail systems and the in-boxes of its users. Not surprisingly, the number of anti-spam software programs, hardware appliances, and filtering services is growing steadily, too. Stopping, or at least identifying, spam at the mail server has u
become critical for campus computing because once it has been distributed to users, the cleanup chore is widespread.
Barracuda Networks' Spam Firewall is an appliance (hardware, software, and update services requiring little management by the IT staff) that detects and quarantines spam with a low percentage of "false positive" mistakes. It is priced on a scale ranging from 90 cents per user up to 1,000 users, to 27 cents for populations over 10,000.
For campuses running Unix- or Linux-based mail services with sendmail, PureMessage from Sophos is a leading choice for anti-spam filtering. Unlike its appliance-based competitors, it is highly customizable at the mail server, which has advantages in flexibility but requires staff time and expertise.
Brightmail's anti-spam filtering software for individual computers is used in several commercial products, and in June of 2004 was acquired by Symantec and is now featured in its Norton AntiSpam 2004 product. The Norton package sells in the $15 to 50 range in the highly competitive online software sales market.
Greenview Data's SpamStopsHere is a hosted, off-site service that uses several layers of filtering to accomplish spam blocking. Its advantage is that it requires no hardware or software on campus. Its principal drawback is that the company manages the filtering criteria centrally, and does not provide customers and users a means to adjust filter settings.
One of the major IT policy issues raised by anti-spam technologies is the matter of false positives--those messages identified as spam but actually are legitimate. A researcher on the reproductive activities of fruit flies could find e-mail blocked because the spam filter cannot differentiate it from the flood of sex-related information figuring in message scans. The technological ideal is, of course, 100 percent blocking of unwanted messages and no stoppage of those that are wanted. Once freedom of expression concerns are added to the discussion, spam blocking can easily become a contentious topic in computing advisory committees.
Cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA), small-format computers and cameras, game players, and hybrids of several of these are forcing their way to the head of the pack of new hardware devices on campus. Most colleges and universities have tried to limit their responsibility to support users of these new micromachines, and have been particularly concerned about the looming demand to accommodate them on the campus network. The difficulty of support was not great when it was a matter of synchronizing a networked calendar in an environment like Microsoft's Exchange/Outlook or Novell's Groupwise with a Palm Pilot or equivalent. But as PDAs become more complex, the task of integrating them into campus networked services grows more daunting.
The Blackberry handheld has been adopted by senior administrators on some campuses as a way to stay in touch while traveling or during a campus emergency. Now some faculty are asking to be provided with them. While the individual units can be obtained for as little as $300, subscription to a related communications network can cost $70 per month. Palm, HP, and Dell are the leading purveyors of PDAs, ranging in cost from $100 to $500 or more. The high-end devices are essentially pocket-sized microcomputers complete with wireless network capability. The lower end of this suite of products are still primarily personal electronic calendars and address books. Dell's family of Axim devices and Palm's Tungsten series are top sellers, along with HP's iPAQ.
PDAs have not succeeded in replacing desktop or notebook computers on campus. Instead they are typically bought by faculty and administrators for personal convenience and ruled outside the set of devices supported by central IT. So far, there has not been a "killer" application for widespread use on campus. Medical schools have generally embraced them as an excellent way to carry information and stay in communication as personnel move through hospital rounds.
In the past, campus IT leaders chose technologies, products, and services for adoption by their clientele. Now the IT jockeys are hanging on to their saddles as the new generation of consumer-oriented technologies race onto campus. The first few requests for support can be turned aside, but the onrush of sheer numbers of devices (let alone MP3 songs) will eventually mandate support for new products and adjustments to campus network infrastructure and usage policies. Some new students have shown up this fall toting notebook computers with built-in wireless networking and did not want to hear that if their dorm rooms were not covered for wireless they could always buy an RJ-45 cable and attach to the 100 MHz wired Ethernet.
Races rarely run as predicted. Like horses, those technologies with irresistible power and stamina cross the finish line. IT shops, this year more than ever, are watching as the pack of contending new technologies sorts itself out.
Tom Warger is a consulting principal for Edutech International (www.edutech-int.com).