The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

PERROTTA: I’m tired of using my hotspot

Considering our current virtual age, Vanderbilt should place more priority on its Wi-Fi connection across campus.
Zoe Yarbrough
Vanderbilt’s snail-like Wi-Fi inhibits students from performing at their best. (Hustler Communications/Zoe Yarbrough)

I spend half of my day toggling between vuNet, vuDevices, eduroam and vuGuest to try to avoid being kicked out of my fifth-or-so Zoom call of the day. No matter where I go on campus, the pesky “Your internet connection is unstable” Zoom notification never seems to escape me. 

Being from the north, I jump at any chance I can get to enjoy the picture-perfect Nashville weather. On most days, you can find me making myself at home outside Buttrick or Central. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encourages using outdoor, highly-ventilated spaces instead of inside areas to limit COVID-19 spread, I frequently have to relocate inside due to experiencing heightened Wi-Fi issues outside, even when barely distanced from the closest building. 

My connection woes remain even when working inside my dorm. Residents in Carmichael Towers, like myself, Stapleton, Morgan Houses and many others have faced recurring connection problems, even after Vanderbilt University Information Technology (VUIT) upgraded some of their networks as of Feb. 5. The servers of Crawford House underwent similar enhancements on Jan. 29, as did Lupton House on Feb. 9 and Hank Ingram House on Feb. 12. Despite the promising outlook of these updates, they caused students to experience additional problems when attempting to re-register their device(s) to the server.

“I use Chili’s guest Wi-Fi in my room because it works better than Vanderbilt’s Wi-Fi,” Olivia Marco, a first-year residing in Carmichael Towers, said.

Besides the general annoyance of having to relaunch my tabs every 30 minutes, campus connection failures have widespread effects on students’ learning and academic performance, adding to the pre-existing Zoom fatigue sweeping through campus. 

“It takes me an extra two hours to complete my work because of the time I spend reconnecting to the Wi-Fi every 20 minutes,” junior Kelly Warren, a Lupton House Residential Advisor (RA), said.

Additionally, many professors consider participation as a significant part of students’ grades but contributing in class has become more of a barrier with the presence of consistent connectivity issues. Some students have to turn their cameras off to retain working audio quality, lowering their participation score and sense of inclusion in their class. Even as a talkative extrovert, I often choose to stay silent during class or send a Sparknotes version of my thought in the Zoom chat rather than risk my voice sounding like C-3PO or having my screen freeze mid-sentence. For students who already struggled with contributing in class due to introversion, social anxiety or other stressors, the Wi-Fi instability adds another barrier. 

Students and professors are often kicked out of Zoom calls due to poor Wi-Fi connection; just yesterday, I had to rejoin a class seven times within the hour-long block. Added to the embarrassment and disruptiveness of reentering a Zoom meeting, especially while a professor, TA or peer is speaking, this predicament creates more work for students as they now have to scramble to catch up on what they missed during their momentary outage. This can also result in missing important details or announcements that could impact their class performance. 

Similarly, even if students miraculously manage to remain in their Zoom call, they will likely struggle to understand what their peers and professors are saying due to Vanderbilt’s choppy reception. To make matters worse, virtual office hours are rendered nearly useless in clarifying this confusion, as some students may be discouraged from attending due to frustration with and anticipation of connection failures.

Students in language classes especially struggle due to Wi-Fi connection failures—it’s even more challenging to comprehend broken-up phrases when they are spoken in a foreign language. Additionally, students’ grades on oral assessments may suffer from misunderstanding prompts and consequentially incorrectly answering them. Instructors may also struggle to comprehend students’ responses. In particular, sign language classes experience barriers due to choppy video quality leading to misinterpretations by both students and professors.  

Even more severely, exam administration has been negatively impacted by Vanderbilt’s inadequate Wi-Fi. For example, in the recent Introduction to Neuroscience (NSC 2201) exam, students experienced shortages while taking the test, causing them to be kicked out of the remote proctoring system (Proctorio).

“It led to me getting over 300 emails in the course of 2 hours with students experiencing issues with their exam, many of them getting kicked off of Proctorio because of dips in Wi-Fi and causing them to lose time on the exam before I could get to their email and tell them how to access the exam again,” Nicolette Frazer, NSC 2201 Teaching Assistant (TA) and neuroscience Ph.D. student, said.

Also, students who did not have strong Wi-Fi, which is necessary for Proctorio to properly function, were unable to view the images embedded in the exam which were needed to respond to 14 out of 75 questions on the test. 

Almost 100 students had to reach out to me to be given screenshots of the images and be allowed to go back and take a second attempt of the exam to answer these specific 14 questions,” Frazer said. “In addition, exams had to be manually graded by the TAs.”

Duo Mobile’s message detailing the lack of WiFi connection. (Screenshot taken from the Duo Mobile app)

Entry to Brightspace, YES and other Vanderbilt-sponsored sites has also been restricted by the inadequate Wi-Fi. A certain level of connection is needed to approve sign-in to these portals via Duo Mobile. Without the ability to verify their sign-in attempt, students become locked out of their accounts and temporarily lose access to schoolwork and class Zoom links. 

On another note, departments and organizations on campus advise students to secure a stable internet connection when joining virtual events to get the most out of the experience. How can students be expected to do this without reliable campus Wi-Fi? 

Some students have resorted to doing online work and Zoom calls in nearby cafes, such as Starbucks and Panera. Others connect to their personal hotspot; however, this resource is not available to all students as it depends on their cellular data plan. Hence, Vanderbilt’s spotty Wi-Fi heightens financial privileges of some students, putting those without external resources at a disadvantage.

Along the same lines, many students are forced to use their cellular data to access the internet on their phones due to a lack of consistent Wi-Fi. This can rack up costs for students, particularly those with limited cellular data plans, and can prevent them from being able to contact others, utilize safety resources or acquire course materials.

First-year Nolan Raghu claims that VUIT offers an effective solution to the Wi-Fi inconsistency.

“Email to activate your Cisco data port in your room, and they’ll also give you an Ethernet cord,” Raghu said. “Note that Mac users will have to find an Ethernet-USB adapter themselves.”

The ever-rising costs of tuition, Vanderbilt’s nationally-high endowment and readiness to go forth with other futile, expensive initiatives (how many times have you sat in a dining tent?) leaves no room for sympathy regarding their embarrassing attempts at Wi-Fi. Given Vanderbilt’s emphasis on virtual campus opportunities, they need to allocate more resources towards establishing a reliable Wi-Fi network that makes virtual programming, education and social life possible and hassle-free for all students and faculty. 

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Senior Advisor
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and is majoring in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science in Peabody College. She was previously Editor-in-Chief and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Zoe Yarbrough
Zoe Yarbrough, Former Deputy Social Media Director
Zoe Yarbrough (2024) is a student in Peabody College double majoring in German and Child Studies. She served as Deputy Social Media Director. When not designing graphics for The Hustler, she is watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, figure skating or drinking coffee. You can reach her at [email protected].

Comments (3)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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Rafael Levin Vanderbilt
3 years ago

The struggle is real

Alexa White
3 years ago

Yes! Glad you wrote this pitch! <3

3 years ago

Awesome article roxy