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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College ranked 5th in computers

Yahoo! Internet Life magazine recently ranked Dartmouth fifth in the nation in a controversial survey of "America's 100 Most Wired Colleges." Dartmouth was the highest ranked Ivy League school.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Emerson College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were the top four schools in Internet use, according to the survey.

Dartmouth was ranked number one for Macintosh users.

Bill Brawley, the director of Dartmouth computer services communications, said the ratings recognized "stuff that isn't necessarily flashy," such as network reliability and e-mail system ease of use.

Dartmouth is the only school in the top five where 100 percent of students own computers, and that ratio helped Dartmouth edge out other schools.

"MIT, obviously, is MIT," Brawley said. "RPI ... from what I've been told, [has] a pretty strong network."

Brawley said a lot of classes at Emerson have their own web sites, which was weighted heavily in the the Yahoo! ratings.

"At one point, [Dartmouth] was one of the most wired schools in the country," said Punch Taylor, the director of technical services for computing services. But other schools have caught up in their Internet usage, he said.

The methodology question

Taylor said the survey does not necessarily indicate the quality of computing at the schools.

"They picked a bunch of criteria to rank colleges by -- it's not clear that those criteria have anything to do with anything."

A number of schools, both those that made the list and those that did not, have complained about the survey's methodology.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, schools have complained about the survey's information gathering process, as well as the criteria they used for ranking.

David Smallen is the director of information-technology services and institutional research at New York's Hamilton College, which did not rank in the top 100.

Smallen told the Chronicle he was "blown away" when he saw the data Yahoo! used when considering Hamilton. "Fifty percent of the data is totally wrong," he said.

Dina Gan, who coordinated the ratings, told the Chronicle she had talked to Hamilton's coordinator of telephone and secretarial services in the office of information-technology services and then someone else.

At Dartmouth, the list's authors contacted Randy Spydell, the associate director for consulting at computing services, to gather information about Dartmouth's computer systems.

Spydell said the survey's authors asked simple questions, but that he had to ask for clarification on a question involving classes with web sites.

"I think that it's a very non-scientific survey," Spydell said.

Apples and oranges

At Dartmouth, unlike many other schools, professors can put their classes online through the Internet or through Apple specific technology, like the Public course folders.

Brawley said the College's affiliation with Macintosh computers ensures a high amount of network use.

"It's made it very easy to develop network services," Brawley said.

One of Dartmouth's biggest strengths is its reliable and easy-to-use network, Brawley said, which some students take for granted.

"If you got to other institutions, it isn't that easy to send e-mail back and forth to people on campus or off, or to send homework to your professors," he said.

"Nevertheless, it's fun to be ranked fifth," Taylor said.