Word Processing Students Cannot Use MacIntoshes

One year after Harvard installed MacIntosh computers in the Science Center basement, it has installed proctors to keep students from using the computers for word processing.

Following a string of confrontations last year, when word-processing students refused to relinquish their terminals for students who needed them for class work, the center this year took the 38 MacIntoshes off the word-processing market, said J. Lance F. Jackson, manager of computer services for the Science Center.

"The faculty voted that they would provide enough to support students in required classes and no more. If the student population descends on these for general use, we just can't support the demand," said Lewis A. Law, director of Computer Operations for the Faculty.

When the Apple computers were installed last year, students were allowed to use them for word processing. But now large signs posted in the room read "No Word Processing," and from noon to midnight, a proctor checks I.D.'s to see if the students are in classes that require use of the machines.

"We found some minority of students abused the privilege [last year] and that as a result the proper and chartered support for computer instruction was made difficult," said Jackson.

"Students legally entitled to the machines could not complete their instructions and projects because word-processing students would not release the terminals," Jackson said.

During reading period last spring a fist fight broke out over use of the terminals, Jackson said. And several students were threatened with disiplinary action if they did not get off.

About 400 to 600 people enrolled in Computer Science 11 and Math 21a need to use the MacIntoshes for their classes, Jackson said.

Despite the new rules, however, students still manage to sneak in under the wire, said proctors in the room. Students who go to the room before noon are not checked, and a proctor said he allowed them to continue word-processing as long as the room was relatively empty.

But after noon access to the computers is limited.

"A lot of people do come in and complain," said proctor James Pak '88. "They come in and take a look and most of the terminals are free. I get the butt end of a lot of their complaints."

Proctors said around five people a day try to come in to use the word-processing machines.

There have not been any major complaints by people over the restrictions but "we've had some long discussions with certain individuals," Jackson said.

Though the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had specifically voted against funding computers for word-processing, Jackson said he allowed students to use them for their papers when there was not a crunch.

But providing word processing for students was never the goal of the program, Law said.

"To meet the demand for word processing we would have to multiply the number of Macs by five," said Law. "This is a question of whether the Faculty is willing to put up the money to do this and it's a question of whether there is a better use of the money. There is real pressure in terms of demand for money for other things."

But for many students having a word processor has become a real necessity, though one they cannot afford.

"I think personal computers are going to become a very important part of the academic environment," said Law. "It's getting down to the level of the $600 calculator 12 years ago. Now every student has a calculator. Prices are going to continue to fall for computers and I think in two or three years this is going to be a non-issue."

Law said there were two alternate ways for students to word process. The Science Center offers low priority accounts for word processing on the main frame computers. Students also can purchase unlimited word processing for a semester for $150 from the Office of Information Technology