After months of discussion, Columbia Law School will install public Wi-Fi for Law library patrons not affiliated with the Law School, effective immediately.
A new guest Wi-Fi network, announced at the Engineering Student Council meeting last week, will allow anyone to access the Internet while on the premises. The Wi-Fi network already in place will remain reserved for Law affiliates, spokesperson Nancy Goldfarb said in an email.
Wi-Fi installation is currently underway, starting with the lobby of the main building and expanding up the floors. The Law School’s other academic buildings will also be outfitted with the guest network. The University expects to provide all Law buildings with public Wi-Fi by March 14.
The new network comes after a term-long discussion between ESC, the University Senate, the Law School, and Columbia University Information Technology.
“We were surprised and found it unfortunate that undergraduates had access to the Law library but didn't have access to wireless internet, which is a hindrance that defeated the purpose of allowing undergraduates in the study space,” ESC President Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, said in an email.
Tanya Shah, SEAS ’14 and vice president of policy for ESC, said based on her conversations, Law School administrators were not aware that the lack of Wi-Fi was a concern for students.
After a review, administrators “found that there were problems when hosting guest lecturers and speakers who could not access wireless either,” Shah said in an email. “They decided if they were going to expand in the library, then they might as well expand through their buildings.”
Another concern regarding Wi-Fi expansion was the security risk of inviting guests into the secure Law School network. Initially, Law School senators were opposed to the proposal, University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC ’16 and a Spectator nonprofit development associate, said.
“There are specific resources, such as legal documents, on their network that they want to keep for their students,” he said, and a separate guest network avoids the overlap.
The issue is the latest negotiation over the question of space usage at Columbia.
“Space is so scarce on Columbia’s campus, and it’s important that students get to use all the libraries on campus,” he said. Not having Wi-Fi in the Law library “really decreased its value to them.”
Bhatt said the Law School’s Wi-Fi access restriction was similar to the Business School policy of not allowing undergraduates into its library during finals. Both policies “were harsh towards undergraduates and we took it upon ourselves to pursue the issue as one of our top priorities,” Bhatt said.
Students interviewed this week said they didn’t frequent the Law library, but most felt that opening up Wi-Fi access was a positive change.
Jonathan Barrios, SEAS ’17 and vice president for ESC class of 2017, said the Law library is usually not very crowded so it represents significantly more potential study space.
Adding guest Wi-Fi access “would not negatively affect the law students' space,” Barrios said. “I thought it was a really good idea.”
“I think it’s a good thing, it’s convenient,” Aisha Kuforiji, CC ’17, said. “I’ll possibly start using the Law library—but it’s a little far.”
“I’ve actually never been to the Law library before, but I’ve been library-hopping,” Brianna Mays, CC ’17, said. After learning about the new Wi-Fi, she said, “I’m definitely going to check them out.”
Avantika Kumar and Yasemin Akçagüner contributed reporting.