Incoming freshmen at the University of Missouri School of Journalism are being required to buy an Apple iPhone or a similar device in order to download lectures or confirm facts on the web.
By Alan Scher Zagier
COLUMBIA, Missouri — Gadgets such as the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch are mainstays on college campuses — largely for the devices’ ability to help students escape the pressures of the classroom.
Now the oldest U.S. journalism school is asking students to buy those or similar devices to download classroom lectures or confirm facts on the Web while reporting from the scene of a plane crash or town council meeting.
The new rule for incoming freshmen at the University of Missouri School of Journalism appears to mark the first time an American university is requiring specific portable electronic devices. The policy has spurred a debate about the limits and possibilities of technology as well as corporate influence in academia.
Skeptics say the school is getting too cozy with Apple, though administrators point out that they earn no financial benefit from the new policy. The university gets a 10% discount on Apple computers it buys, but other vendors such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard offer the same deal.
After the school received complaints about endorsing a specific device the school made the following clarification:
After similar complaints, the school clarified that it is requiring any Web-enabled, audio-video player like the iPhone or the iPod Touch, which is like an iPhone without the phone. So portable devices such as a Microsoft Zune or smart phones such as BlackBerrys can be acceptable. Just not preferred.
“There are alternatives to the iPod Touch, but none that we consider equally capable,” the online program description concludes.
Why should students have to buy these devices if they’re necessary for the classroom? They already have to buy textbooks. The school should at least offer these devices at a fifty percent discount or just give them to the students. College students already have enough expenses to deal with.