Cresap is ‘hidden’ answer to crammed Kresge lab

Throughout his four years at Northwestern, Weinberg senior Paul Spraycar has never owned a computer.

Instead, he relies on Cresap Laboratory.

“It’s almost a hidden secret,” Spraycar said of the computer lab built in Spring Quarter. “In Kresge it’s totally packed. So many South classes (are near Kresge) that it seems like a good choice, but in reality you wait a long time for a computer.”

Indeed, students sometimes find themselves waiting as long as 20 minutes for an open terminal at Kresge, which has become the main stop for students seeking computer help, printing capabilities and Internet use since Vogelback Computing Center closed after Fall Quarter 1999.

The Kresge lab has about half as many seats as Vogelback’s did. And those seats are usually full during its peak mid-day hours, when Kresge is the busiest public computer lab on campus.

But finding more terminals is not the Information Technology department’s primary focus, said Bob Taylor, director of Academic Technology for IT. There is no funding for more space, he said.

“General student use isn’t the highest priority,” said Taylor, noting the amount of public computer space depends on the number of students owning computers — about 97 percent last year.

Many students said they frequent the Kresge lab because they say it is the most accessible.

“It’s more convenient than going up and around the library,” said Grandt, who lives south of campus and has two classes at University Hall.

Despite having 21 computers available to students and 49 more if a class isn’t occupying the room, the library’s labs have had little use so far this year because it moved from the second floor to the basement to allow for expansions.

Catherine Cotterman, a Weinberg senior who works at Cresap, said because the lab exists in the no-man’s land between North and South Campus, many students are unaware of its 41 computers.

“If they live down South, they’re gonna go to Kresge,” Cotterman said. “If they live up North, they’re gonna go to Tech.”

The computer lab at the Technological Institute also has more computers available this year, but they are not being used by many students, said Mufuddal Esmael, a McCormick junior who has worked in the lab for two years. 30 computers were recently converted from UNIX to Windows, but the lab is hidden in Tech’s basement.

Some students, especially those not in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, are surprised that the building even has a public lab, he said.

While lines might not be out the door now, Spraycar said once mid-terms roll around the labs will fill up quickly. This year is already headed for trouble, he said.

“Right now there’s definitely a shortage of computers,” Spraycar said. “Most people have computers, so I guess (the administration is) banking on that.”

One student said she has found the strategy to finding an open computer at Kresge.

“If you’re coming here in the middle of the night, it’s usually empty,” Weinberg sophomore Gabrielle Strouse said.