Connecticut College News
Last of the Landlines-By Nora Swenson ´1204/6/2009
Despite efforts by the college´s website to hype up the campus´s "state-of-the-art communications network providing sophisticated phone and data connectivity from every room on campus," the outcomes have been at best rather meager, with many students turning to cell phone use instead. In fact, the majority of Connecticut College students do not even know their room extension. At the March 27 Student Government Association meeting, the Assembly discussed the use, or rather lack of use, of the landlines located within students´ rooms both for local and long distance calls. Bruce Carpenter, Director of Technical Support and Lee Hisle, Vice President of Information Services, gave an overview of the current situation. Currently, Connecticut College spends over $3,200 a year to subscribe to a service, STC, which enables a long distance calling ability for each landline, whether students choose to subscribe to the service or not. At present, only 6 percent of students utilize this service, a drop of over 25 percent since this time last year. With the influx of cell phones, webcams and internet programs like Skype, the landlines are falling more and more out of favor. The implementation of calling cards was suggested, which would allow those students wishing to call long distance to pay for their own individual minute use, and would enable them to continue using the same room phones. A great deal of the discussion focused on concern that international students often utilize landlines to contact family and friends. However, as SGA President Leidy Valencia suggested, "In terms of international students, maybe having some sort of system set up within the houses [would work.] Like, the housefellows tend to help students who come in late, so maybe if the housefellow has the calling card, or something like that, that would work for calling home." Furthermore, Valencia noted, "If only 133 calls are made on it [STC], and we can save money, it seems worthwhile [to consider ending the subscription]." One Assembly member further expanded this conversation on the necessity of a long distance plan on landlines to the question of whether students even need a landline at all. Lee Hisle offered more figures to help substantiate the discussion in regards to finances. On campus there are 900 analog phones, and on average, 150 phones are lost or broken each year. They cost about $35 each to replace, which costs the school around $5,250 a year. Hisle said, "since most students use cell phones, we could eliminate analog phones except for those who want one, and you would check one out from [Tech Support]. And if you break it, you´re responsible for it, since we have your name." He referenced one of the current problems with the phone service is a lack of accountability. The cost of phones that are lost or broken are not billed to students because there is not currently a system in place to track them. Hisle referenced other schools like University of Notre Dame that recently decided to make room landline phones optional. The first year implemented (in a school of 6,800 students), only 74 students opted in for a phone. The following year, it dropped to 27 students. This current school year, only 10 signed up. However, some potential problems with the idea of completely absolving landlines were brought up. For example, one student mentioned that if departments on campus were forced to call students´ cell phones, they would be required to subscribe to a plan of their own and would ultimately run up a lengthy phone bill due to the many long distance calls. Valencia finally brought the group back to the current issue voted on at the meeting: whether or not SGA should support the notion of unsubscribing to long distance plans with STC, while also promoting or providing calling cards to students. The motion passed, though the issue of phones and their future existence at Connecticut College is far from over.