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The Missing Links


The Internet is supposed to be able to take users anywhere in the world-but it can't take some Harvard students to their own concentrations.

At Harvard, where Internet access is easy, 10 of Harvard's 39 concentrations have no Web pages.

And many students question why some departments do not yet have a page, especially when making Web pages is getting simpler all the time.

"I think those departments that don't have Web pages are giving up a very good channel to communicate with students," says one sophomore who asks to remain anonymous.

From the administration's point of view, the Internet is meant to facilitate education, says Director of Faculty of Arts and Science Computer Services Franklin M. Steen.

"The network was put in so students could communicate in an academic way and that part of network use has remained critical," he says.

Steen says the fact that the 29 departments and about 200 courses that do have links on the newly created Harvard College Web page is substantial.

Nevertheless, last spring a survey conducted by Yahoo! ranked Harvard 64th in the nation based on its use of computing technology. Though this survey turned out to be unreliable, at the time some saw it as a wake-up call for Harvard to expand its on-line presence.

Although the administration has made learning a mission of the network, it can only do so much to urge concentrations to create a Web page.

"Some departments feel that this is not as important as others," Steen says.

Gotta Have 'Em

Departments which do have Web pages say their pages are useful to students for a variety of helpful features-from department overviews to course and professor listings.

Web pages also help some departments expand their presence around the world, Peter M. McIssac, a lecturer in German, writes in an e-mail. McIsaac, who designed the German page, says he got the page into various search engines.

But Zachary H. Smith '00, an English concentrator, says that it is not important for concentrations to have a Web page because many of the materials that can be found on the Internet are available in hard copy from the concentration.

"If my department didn't have a Web page, it wouldn't make a difference," he says.

There are six departments that do not have Web pages: Afro-American Studies; Comparative Literature; History; Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; Celtic Languages and Literature; and Sanskrit and Indian Studies.

There are also four undergraduate concentrations which have no Web pages: Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP); Literature; Physical Science; and Special Concentrations.

According to McIsaac, some humanities departments do not have Web sites because they may not have the computer expertise needed to post a page.

But most of the concentrations say that time and motivation are the primary reasons why they have no page.

In the history concentration, which oversees more than 200 students each year, administrators say that lack of time is the principal culprit in their lack of a page.

"We haven't had enough time to devote enough staff to this exclusively," says an administrator at the History office who asked to remain anonymous.

The administrator adds that the concentration is currently working on creating a page.

"It's almost complete, we've just had to free up a couple of staff members to work on it," says the administrator.

Maggie S. Stanley, a new staff assistant at the Near Eastern Languages and Civilization Department, says she did not know exactly why a Web page has not yet been a priority in her department, but says that it plans to create a page soon.

"There really isn't any significant reason why they haven't had one so far except that they've been behind everyone," Stanley says.

Peter T. Glashaw, a senior officer at the Department of Afro-American Studies, says that the department's original location at 1430 Mass. Ave. was not wired to access the Internet.

Now that it is in the Barker Center for the Humanities, Afro-American Studies hopes to unveil one within 30 days, Glashaw says.

Other departments contacted-ESPP and Literature-say they are also looking to spin themselves on the Web quite soon.

The only department contacted which says it has no intention of making a Web page is Physical Sciences because it is being phased out, said an administrator at the department.

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