Cable plan met with variety of responses

Elaine Helm

Despite the long history of requesting cable television in residence halls, some students said Thursday the $121.20 yearly price tag would be too high.

Student members of the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee have asked the Board of Trustees to fund cable at a cost of more than $500,000 for the initial installation. After speaking with administrators, Associated Student Government leaders presented a cable plan at Wednesday’s Senate meeting that would include the fee added onto students’ room and board bill.

Senators will vote on the bill Wednesday after students take an online poll about paying for cable and their channel options. Senate approval would put the plan into action, ASG President Jordan Heinz said, and cable could be installed as early as Fall Quarter.

“Of course it would be better if the university would pay for it,” said Heinz, who helped present the UPBC recommendations. “Obviously that would be an optimal situation. They did not give it to us as an option. Right now we have the option of no cable or the students pay for it.”

Recent protests about lack of student input in administrative decision-making led to this approach, Heinz said.

“It’s fully in the students’ hands now,” he said. “The administration’s kind of cautious now (in) gauging that support.”

Top administrators were unavailable for comment Thursday. In an e-mail to Heinz on Wednesday, Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis wrote, “We would like to have a clear sense of the preferences of our resident students on this issue since it involves a fee increase.”

Some students said cable may not be worth the cost, because all students would be forced to pay even if they are not interested in the service.

“When I lived in a dorm I didn’t watch TV in my room,” said Amanda Burr, a Speech junior who lives off campus. “I wouldn’t want to be forced to pay for it.”

But Heinz said he understands administrators’ reasoning for having students pay.

“This is something that isn’t part of academic life at Northwestern and it’s not a necessity – it’s more of a luxury,” Heinz said. “It does make sense to me that they would want to pass the cost along to students.”

Student Services Vice President Courtney Brunsfeld said NU’s cable plan also is beneficial because students could access channels through their computers rather than on television. The computer-based system comes at a lower cost than wiring televisions, research by Brunsfeld’s committee showed.

“This provides a much better opportunity for students to take advantage of the service,” said Brunsfeld, a Weinberg junior. “The number of people who have computers will always be exponentially higher than the number with TVs.”

Although students have lobbied for years to have cable in dorms, some said they aren’t satisfied now that administrative approval is imminent.

“When they built the newer buildings, they should have made them cable-ready,” said Matthew Purcell, a Medill freshman. “I think (cable over the Ethernet) makes it less attractive because obviously people would like to watch it on TV.”

Senators also will finalize the channels students want, choosing 14 to 16 options from a list of 51 that includes CNN, Cartoon Network, ESPN, Comedy Central and MTV. The channels they approve will be available, in addition to the four major network channels, for two years until contracts are renegotiated.

Watching cable on his computer is still appealing despite the cost, which amounts to about $13 per month, said Ajay Tejwani, a Weinberg sophomore.

“A lot of people would object to the $121,” Tejwani said. “I personally would pay it. It sounds pretty cool.”