Students and faculty experienced a near — 24-hour period of intermittent outages on Georgetown’s main — campus wireless networks SaxaNet, GuestNet and EduRoam last Thursday.
Many students experienced delays in email communication, submitting Blackboard assignments and conducting internet-dependent research.
For the majority of students and faculty, such difficulties were only compounded by confusion regarding the proper response surrounding widespread and persistent Internet failures.
The university must address these pertinent confusions, as well as the administrative errors that led to last week’s outages, in order to maintain an adequately supportive learning environment for Georgetown students.
Thursday’s Internet outage was only the latest in a series of key service failures — along with nearly a month without hot water for Henle Village residents and a lack of laundry appliances for students housed at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center on Georgetown’s main campus, both of which occurred last year.
Such failures seem nearly unbelievable at a university charging $64,000 in annual tuition. And yet, if administrative funds are truly stretched as thin as they appear, raising the fee for certain facilities could be entertained as long as those fees result in a clear improvement of the facility.
Considering the extent to which Georgetown employs an instructional continuity policy, this is perhaps most applicable to the issue of Internet outages.
While small hiccups in wireless connectivity are inevitable and understandable, long spans of network failure simply cannot go unaddressed.
Last Thursday, many students and faculty complained about not being able to communicate through email or study for upcoming exams because of the lack of Internet access.
When a snowstorm like Winter Storm Jonas hits in winter months, such a failure has the potential to derail instructional continuity and disrupt entire semester schedules, on top of those problems already listed.
But the university should not stop at simply strengthening its information service apparatus.
Indeed, Thursday’s outages were unanticipated, leaving Georgetown students and faculty unsure about how lost productivity time would be accommodated in the classroom. With no uniform contingency plan in place, some students were granted extra time to complete papers or had their exams postponed; others were not so lucky.
In view of these disparities, the university ought to issue a clear policy addressing Internet failure and how it affects curricular activities. Without such direct communication, the lost productivity caused by Internet outages is only aggravated by student stress and classroom disruption.
Reliable Internet connectivity is an indispensable part of university life.
If Georgetown students cannot rely on such a fundamental service, they ought to at least be provided with the means to cope with the consequences of that inadequacy.
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