NU lags behind with cable TV but maybe that’s not a bad thing

Victor Limjoco Column

It’s a pretty popular question on tours: “Is there cable in the dorm rooms?” Northwestern is proud of its 150-year tradition, its top-ranked programs, and its beautiful campus, but where’s the cable? Almost every school in the nation updated their dorm rooms since cable TV became available 50 years ago, but NU never jumped on the bandwagon for financial and academic reasons. But now your dreams may come true, couch potatoes. Cable TV might be streaming into your room as early as next year.

It’s an ambitious proposal, announced last week by the student-led Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee: to equip all dorm rooms with cable TV. For too long we’ve been struggling with bent coat hangers to get shady reception of Fox, and, well, Fox. Previously, the university opposed running expensive cable lines through the dorms, but new technology allows cable to be streamed through existing Ethernet lines. The proposal calls for cable to be broadcast on dorm computers at first.

Despite its $550,000 installation price tag, cable television will be beneficial for NU, according to Jordan Heinz, Associated Student Government president and member of UBPC. Four ASG bills passed since 1996 expressed the need for cable television. “It’s been an issue for so long, students were getting very frustrated,” Heinz said.

The plan would greatly benefit Northwestern News Network, whose news reports air twice a week on Evanston Community Television. Some students don’t even know that NNN exists, since most of us aren’t glued to Evanston local programming.

“Cable would be the greatest thing for NNN,” said Eric Zuckerman, president and news director of NNN. “Our biggest problem has been that we’re not easily accessible to students on campus.”

But some students have reservations about the cost of the program.

“I’m all for the plan, except if it adds much more to our tuition,” said Elsa Wang, an Education junior. For Wang, other areas might need attention: “A few of the classrooms need renovations, and Blomquist’s equipment is pretty old,” she said.

After two long years of clamoring for cable TV in the dorms, now that I’m in an off-campus apartment I barely watch television. The hour I usually devote in front of the tube each day is either spent flipping through channels or watching multiple loops of Headline News. We have more than 300 channels, and all too often my choices boil down to “Making the Band” or “Wedding Story.” What a lose-lose decision.

Granted, many of my friends in apartments can sit for hours watching Food Television. But I’m not sure if we should pump Martha Stewart straight into the dorm rooms, making students suffer even more while they digest SAGA’s mystery meat of the day. I hate to spoil the surprise, but television around here isn’t any better than the mindless fuzz you watch back at home.

Before we rush to say “Every other college has cable, why don’t we?” I think we should make sure that we have enough reason to spend more than $500,000. If we’re going to overlook shoddy gym equipment and crumbling music facilities, we better have students glued to their screens every night. Finally, a reason to see more of “Martha Stewart Living.”