San Jose State University's proposed Skype ban: clueless, paranoid and Luddite

In what strikes me as both a paranoid and Luddite move, San Jose State University is seeking to block the use of Skype on campus.The issue first came to light in last Monday's Spartan Daily, when reporter Stefanie Chase wrote that Don Baker, interim associate vice president of university computing and telecommunications, who alluded to the memo that some of the reasons for this likely ban include the use of state resources for retail purposes and the fear of acquiring computer viruses.

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In what strikes me as both a paranoid and Luddite move, San Jose State University is seeking to block the use of Skype on campus.

The issue first came to light in last Monday's Spartan Daily, when reporter Stefanie Chase wrote that Don Baker, interim associate vice president of university computing and telecommunications, who alluded to the memo that some of the reasons for this likely ban include the use of state resources for retail purposes and the fear of acquiring computer viruses.

But then Chase cited a far more knowledgeable source- Steve Sloan, help desk and information technology support services specialist at the University.

Chase noted Sloan mentioned to her that some SJSU faculty use Skype in the classroom, and that " 'if Skype is no longer permitted on the SJSU campus, it will be a "disadvantage to educators as well (as to students)."

"I think it's going to have a significant impact," Chase quoted Sloan as saying.

Then two days letter on his own blog, Sloan passionately stated the case for keeping Skype at SJSU.

He wrote in part:

In my class I have been planning to use Skype to bring authors of the textbook we use together to discuss their book with my students from various locations around the globe. Since I started using Skype daily in my work I have been contacted by educators from Europe, Asia and Australia. Educators have contacted me via Skype to collaborate on teaching and learning methods. One contact was from a group of educators who wanted to use Skype technology, combined with podcasting and iPods, to extend the reach of the Internet into the Outback to reach Aboriginal children.

Thanks to Skype, we are able to have easy and free international communications with colleagues. Thanks to Skype, we are able to collaborate globally and spontaneously. Skype has become the standard tool for this type of emerging technology. Banning Skype, in my opinion, would be like banning the web ten years ago. Like Skype, people use the web for profit, for buying and selling and for other uses that have nothing to do with university business. Could you imagine where this university would be today if we had banned the web ten years ago? Is that where you want this university to be ten years from now?

I know of foreign language educators, in the Skype Foreign Language Lab Project, who are using Skype as a tool to enable students in one part of the world to speak to native speakers of the languages they are teaching on the other side of our planet. There are pedagogically sound applications for this technology!

Last, we cannot forget the significant number of foriegn students at SJSU taking classes thousands of miles from their families. Skype is a great tool for our many foreign students to be able to maintain contact with their family and friends in their homelands. I don't think we should casually take a "let them eat cake" attitude towards student needs and the needs of other university students.

Sloan also explained something that is obvious: not only is the university located in the largest city in technologically innovative Silicon Valley, but it is located about 10 miles from the HQ of Skype's owner, eBay.

That'd be 10 minutes away as the Lexus flies. No, not "drives." Lexus' in that corner of the world do fly.

Also ironic, dontcha think: SJSU's own marketing tagline (as I show you at the top of this post) is: Powering Silicon Valley." Fine example you are setting, Don Baker.

And the viruses? Those terribly nasty viruses "associated" with Skype?

Don Baker, if you could point me to some other colleges whose network security has been breached by Skype, then I would be willing to consider your point.

But until you can, I'll call you what you sound like to me: a clueless, "what if" Luddite.