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Babson Diary: Smart WiFi and Air Con

My boy is at Babson College’s five-week summer entrepreneurship program. Seems a rigorous affair. In contrast to the decrepit, steamy dorms reserved for summer students by a certain Ivy League college, the dormitories at Babson are all air conditioned with, get this, individual units that the denizens can adjust themselves. The 72 high school students in the program will leave Babson thinking that the school is a cool place.

Babson also offers all campus visitors an easy-to-use Internet connection. Access to the speedy network is unsecured, and once you are recognized, your are accorded instant access forevermore. Turn on your iPhone and you are in. In contrast, Dartmouth Public doesn’t remember you at all: if you turn off your phone, even for a few minutes, and then turn it back on, you will need to go to Settings/WiFi/Dartmouth Public and then tap on the network; after 5-10 seconds you are connected to the College’s slow public server. A poor show. Check out the comparative download speeds at Babson and Dartmouth — over an order of magnitude of difference from one to the other:

Dartmouth Babson WiFi.jpg

Slow speeds make a difference when you try to download even something basic like e-mail. But the multi-step connection process is the real burden. The College should do better here, but I bet that some department somewhere is saving a few bucks by cutting bone to save fat. Visitors to Hanover will not go away impressed. This sad performance comes from a school that used to win awards as the nation’s most wired campus.

Addendum: A reader provides some background:

College and university amenities are an interesting consideration. They do seem to attract potential students (and perhaps more importantly, their parents). One of my friends currently attends High Point University, which is definitely on the extreme end of amenity spending. Though its endowment is only $37M, the current president has directed roughly $700M toward renovations and new amenities over the years. HPU has a beautifully landscaped campus, outdoor swimming pools & hot tubs, movie theater showing new releases (with free snacks), free arcade, putting green, sports bar, ice cream truck, personalized visitor parking spots, and an on-campus steakhouse that students can eat at with their meal plan. Obviously, Dartmouth doesn’t need most of these somewhat cheesy amenities; we have an excellent academic reputation to stand on.

While we don’t need to model ourselves on HPU, we do need to make investments in things that have a profound impact on students and academic life. The Choates dorms are decrepit, DDS continues to limit competition and burdens students with high prices, and our technological innovation has come to a near stand-still. According to a somewhat recent article on the D, our network capacity is 4 gigabits of data per second. To put this into perspective, Google Fiber offers gigabit connections for $70/month, admittedly in a few select markets. Thus, four homes with Google Fiber have the same network capacity as a college with over 6000 total students. Dartmouth used to be associated with innovation—BASIC, campuswide wireless Internet, even VoIP in dorms—but it seems non-academic staff members take precedence in our budget today.

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