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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


Not for publication

 Aug. 11, 2000 -- No. 411

Carolina freshman class largest nationwide to begin laptop computer requirement

Thursday, Aug. 17, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Media briefing, 1 p.m., 308 Hanes Hall

Students using laptops in orientation, shortly after 1:30 p.m., 307 Hanes

Laptop distribution, starting at 2 p.m., 307 Hanes

UNC-CH begins classes Aug. 22 with the nationís largest freshman class, at 3,400 students, ever required to own laptop computers. By fall 2003, 15,000-plus undergraduates will be using laptops in classes, dorm rooms, dining halls, libraries and -- as wireless networking progresses -- across campus in the quads and popular gathering sites.

The requirement is part of the Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI), a sweeping campus technology plan to enhance teaching, learning and research and equip students and faculty with computers. By making technology now essential in academic life accessible, the university aims to produce graduates who have the high-tech savvy required for 21st century professional success. While several campuses have begun a wide range of computer requirements, UNC-CHís initiative, spotlighted Aug. 10 by The New York Times, is unique among major U.S. research universities Ė both public and private -- because of its size, scope and approach, says Marian Moore, vice chancellor for information technology. Officials from numerous other campuses considering computer requirements have visited Chapel Hill in recent months to learn from Carolinaís experiences.

August 17

Next Thursday, Mooreís staff will complete laptop distribution and orientation sessions for incoming freshmen. Moore will brief media representatives at 1 p.m. in 308 Hanes Hall. Moore will discuss the current status of CCI and what she expects to happen in the coming weeks with this historic freshman class. New Chancellor James Moeser and several key administrators, faculty and students who have been instrumental in plans for this fallís freshmen will attend and be available for interviews. At about 1:30 p.m., media may sit in on part of an orientation session in Room 307 when students will be unboxing and configuring their laptops, setting up e-mail accounts and learning dos and doníts of laptops. Beginning at about 2 p.m., a new group of students will start lining up for laptop distribution in Room 308. Other visual opportunities in connection with these sessions include back-to-school activity at Student Stores, where students buy CCI laptops.

Hanes Hall is located off Cameron Avenue behind Memorial Hall. Broadcasters with heavy equipment who need parking assistance should call Karen Moon at News Services, (919) 962-2091.

Additional Background

A key component of CCI is a campuswide contract with a single vendor, IBM, to maximize the universityís collective buying power. Carolina also is bridging what had been considered a serious digital divide between students who were bringing computers on their own --- true of more than half of the 1997 freshman class -- and those who didnít. UNC-CH is the first public university nationwide to offer a pre-approved low-interest loan to all entering students to buy laptops as well as need-based grants to fund the purchase for up to 40 percent of the freshman class. CCI laptops come equipped with the most commonly used software applications on campus and the ability to connect with the campus network and Internet from residence hall rooms.

UNC-CH officials began planning for this fall after announcing the laptop requirement in early 1998. Last year nearly two-thirds of the entering freshmen chose to buy a laptop through a voluntary project. They participated in pilot classes to help faculty members plan for this fall. Some classes also experimented with wireless technology, which is far less expensive than wiring classrooms. Over the past two years, Carolina has completed wiring all of its 29 residence halls and provided IBM computers to faculty, staff and graduate teaching assistants in the College of Arts and Sciences, where most undergraduates learn.

Chartered in 1789, UNC-CH is the nationís oldest public university. The university began construction on Old East, now a wired residence hall, in 1793 and opened its doors to students in 1795.

Web links: equipment descriptions, pricing, a laptop tour and student comments)

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News Services contacts: Karen Moon (broadcast); Mike McFarland and Laura Toler (print), 962-2091