College to drop dorm phones

Can you hear me now? For those using dorm phones, the answer will soon be no.

In an e-mail sent on Monday, Information Technology Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter and Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin informed students that starting this summer, automatic telephone service to dorm rooms will be discontinued.

A request to IT can be made in order to activate lines. A fee, tentatively set at $50, will be instated.

“We’re not ending [phone service],” Carpenter said. “Lines just won’t be on by default when you move in.
“We decided on this around the end of last semester,” Carpenter added. “We’ve been talking about this for two years.”

In a 2006 survey conducted by the Office of Residence Life, 92 percent of students at the College indicated that their cellular phones were their primary phones.

“We sort of learned that a majority of students didn’t have telephones or set up their voicemail boxes and weren’t utilizing all the features,” Boykin said. “It didn’t make sense [to continue the service].”

As the survey indicated, most students at the College will not be affected by the removal of dorm telephone service, but there are some students who depend on their landline for communication.

One such student, Joseph Casten ’09, does not have a cell phone and relies on his dorm phone to talk to people. Casten said he would utilize other means of communication.

“I will just use instant messaging more,” Casten said.

To compensate for the removal of dorm room phones, phones will be installed in most dorm hallways. These telephones will offer local service, as well as long distance service with an access code. Telephones will also remain active in resident assistant and area director offices.

“Students will still be able to have phone service,” Boykin said. “There will always be a phone for emergencies and calling for pizza.”

Besides the general lack of use among students, the cost of replacing aging telephone lines in dorms also contributed to the College’s decision to phase out dorm telephone service.

“The lines [in the dorms] are old,” Boykin said. “Contracting for a new phone system, if we wire all new residences, would cost several hundred thousand dollars.”

Carpenter also said that the money saved by not re-wiring the dorms combined with other cost-saving measures would be used to improve other technologies at the College.

“We’re going to renegotiate our maintenance contract, and any more saved [from these actions] will be used to provide better internet service,” he said.

While lack of student usage was a major factor in the decision to end automatic telephone service, the new construction on campus was also a key reason. The existing lines will be incorporated into the telephone systems in the new buildings for the schools of business and education.

“Our telephone system is very old and we can’t expand it,” Carpenter said. “We’re opening several new buildings that need phones, so we’ve got to take them away from somewhere else.”

The College is also preparing a request for state funding for a new campus-wide telephone system by 2011.
In addition to the installation of hall telephones, the College plans on building a Distributed Antenna System to boost cell phone reception on campus.

“We have lousy cell phone service, especially for AT&T,” Carpenter said. “With a DAS, we’re looking at installing probably four smaller antennas around campus. They’ll go on top of the light poles at the stadium and places like that and they’ll all connect to one place. By the fall of ’09 we hope to have the system up.”


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