By EMILY SMURTHWAITE and ERIN MORRISON
In the late ’70s, BYU’s law school became one of the first in the nation to start making extensive use of computers for students. Twenty years later, computers have not only become important to the law school — they have become a requirement.
Since Fall Semester 1998, all first-year law students have been required to have a laptop computer, said Kevin Worthen, associate dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Worthen said there’s an obligation among law faculty members to use technology in the classroom, because the students have their computers.
Although computers are only mandatory now for law students, sometime in the future, Eric Denna, Vice President of Technology, said he suspects all BYU students will be required to have them in the next 2-3 years.
“One topic frequently discussed in the president’s council is when we’re going to require student ownership of a computer. It’s a big decision and we want to do it right,” Denna said.
Lindsey Cottam, 23, a third-year law student from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., said she’s glad there is a computer requirement. She said it is easier to type notes and organize them on her laptop. The law students also take finals on their laptops, Cottam said.
She said it would be a good idea for all BYU students to be required to own a computer.
“So much of our society revolves around computers. If there was a requirement, then students will be better prepared for outside of school,” Cottam said.
Bryce Jorgensen, 23, a junior from Bountiful, Davis County, majoring in family science, said he does not believe all students need to own a computer.
“If my roommate has one, I don’t need one of my own,” he said.
Scott Cameron, associate dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School and chair of admissions committee, said students can ask for a waiver of the laptop requirement.
“If exemptions are sought, they are liberally granted,” he said.
But Cameron said he only knows of one student who has gone through the formal waiver process before attending the law school.
Cameron also said the laptop requirement is beneficial for communication within the law school. In the law school, communication is done through e-mail. When students have their laptops, they can get news from their teachers, he said.
Students who cannot pay for the mandatory laptops can obtain a subsidized loan from a private fund at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Cameron said.
In spite of the law school’s laptop requirement, BYU does not match the technology efforts of other universities. BYU is the 77th most wired college in the United States, according to a survey conducted by Yahoo. The third most wired campus was Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
All the students at WFU are required to own a computer which are distributed by the school, said Dr. Jennifer Burg, assistant professor of computer science at WFU. All the students have uniform personal computers and the professors have uniform laptops, she said. The $21,420 tuition for first year students includes the cost of the computers, she said.
WFU university started requiring students to own computers in 1996 as part of a new academic plan, Burg said. The school bought the computers from IBM and had the same hardware installed on each one, she said.
WFU is a private four-year college with over 6,000 students enrolled.
“I think it’s easier to require computers in a small private school rather than a state university; we have a greater control over tuition,” Burg said.