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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

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.
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

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

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

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

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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