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MIT Places Second in ‘Most Wired’ Rankings

By Kevin R. Lang

After falling behind Dartmouth College and the New Jersey Institute of Technology last year, MIT ranked second in Yahoo! Internet Life’s 1999 listing of “America’s 100 Most Wired Colleges.” Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University placed first.

Wake Forest University University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finished third through fifth, respectively. Case Western jumped to the top from 63rd in 1998, and Wake Forest moved up from 77th. NJIT and RPI remained relatively stable from previous years.

MIT scored 90.45 out of 100 in the survey, slightly more than one point below top-ranked Case Western. MIT fell behind Case Western for having fewer computers per one hundred students, for failing to have online add/drop forms, and for lacking a distance learning program, among other criteria. MIT scored higher in categories including 24-hour computer availability and tech support.

Some members of SIPB, the Student Information Processing Board, questioned the relevance of the Yahoo! rankings. “I think ‘who cares’ pretty much summarizes the response,” said Jered J. Floyd G. Floyd thought that MIT’s computer availability and network services were better than the report could show, since many students run Linux from their home computers.

Yahoo! also noted that MIT hosts the World Wide Web Consortium, an organization that develops and manages technical standards for the web. W3C is managed by web-inventor Tim Berners-Lee.

In 1997, Yahoo! ranked MIT the nation’s most wired university based on categories ranging from hardware resources to online academic programs. MIT dropped to third overall last year, when Dartmouth College was named most wired college and NJIT finished second. Dartmouth dropped to 26th in 1999.

“I think you have to take all these surveys with some grain of salt,” said Stephen C. Moss G. Several students using Athena, including Moss, thought that the second place ranking was proof of MIT being wired enough. However, Moss noted that he was using Athena at the time because Information Services had inadvertently disconnected the network connection at his office. “It’s hard to get the high end computers,” Moss said.

Another Athena user was glad to see that MIT was not quite the most wired college. Allison M. Johnson ’02 thought that MIT students in general spent too much time logged in. “Maybe it’s not a bad thing that we’re not the most wired,” Johnson said.

Among peer institutions, the California Institute of Technology dropped to 87th after ranking seventh overall last year. Yahoo! ranked Stanford University 31st and Wellesley College 88th. Harvard University, which Yahoo! ranked 73rd last year, was not listed among the top 200 colleges. An additional 100 schools are ranked in the web version of the “100 Most Wired” listing.

Yahoo! attributed some of the dramatic changes in individual rankings to “spending sprees for computers and network equipment,” among other things.

“A school’s drop in the ranking may not indicate that it has become any less wired,” the report says. “Rather, other colleges may have made greater strides in this constantly changing arena.”

The criteria for rankings changed significantly from last year, when Yahoo! included such information as waiting time for public computers, percentage of students who owned their own computers, and statistics on the online social life. In 1999, Yahoo! ranked schools on such categories as recent computer purchases, wired residences, online registration and transcripts, free services, and e-mail accounts.

Yahoo! Internet Life selected 571 four-year colleges for their survey based on research, technology, competitive enrollment, size, and past rankings. Complete results can be found in the May issue of Yahoo! Internet Life or on the web at college/.