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University cuts dorm telephones

Amanda Michaels | Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Notre Dame students returning to the dorms this semester will be greeted by technology improvements, including cable jacks and solid cell phone reception. There is one Old Faithful, however, that is absent – the blinking red light of the room phone.

Beginning after spring residents moved out in May, the telephones located in every dorm room were systematically removed from the halls and many sold in the end-of-the-year charity “yard sale” in the stadium, “From Old to Gold.”

This move came after the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) found that only a very small percentage of on-campus students regularly used their room phones, according to Steven Ellis, the director of Integrated Communications Services at OIT.

“We’d found that roughly 80 to 90 per cent of the telephones were not used in the dorms,” Ellis said. “With a large number like that, it’s an obvious [decision]: If they’re not using the phones, then why are we putting them out there?”

Students will now rely on their personal cell phones, most of which are expected to have improved reception after the addition of 16 service antennae across campus is completed.

For those without cell phones, or who have use for a room phone, an opt-in telephone service is available. Students who request a dorm phone through the Office of Residence Life and Housing will pay a $161 per semester fee for the service. Though Ellis could not provide the exact cost the service used to run the students, he said the system is “revenue neutral” for the University.

Ellis said as of last week, only 60 students chose to opt-in to the plan. This number does not, however, include dorm Resident Assistants, who are required to have the service by ResLife and therefore receive it for free.

Also new are the public phones in hallways of every dorm – at least one per floor, depending on the dorm configuration, Ellis said. Students can use these to call any campus number for free, and can also use them for long-distance calling if they have a pre-paid phone card. The hallway phones, however, cannot receive calls, according to Ellis.

To keep up a standard form of connection in lieu of the dorm phone disappearance, every student, regardless if they are living on or off campus, has been given a five-digit voice mail box number that can be accessed from any phone. The number previously used to call up voice mail – familiar to many students as 4-7474 – will still be employed to either check voice mail or leave a message in another voice mail box. A student will keep the same number throughout their tenure at the University.

“The [voice mail] service is free of charge, so if students decide they want to use it, it’s there,” Ellis said. “However, the University will be using [the voice mail boxes] as a method of communicating with students, so they really need to set up their mail boxes.”

With the transition out of the traditional dorm phone system, Ellis said Notre Dame is on “the leading edge” for changes in university communication – changes he said have, so far, met with silent approval.

“We’ve not really had any feedback [about the phone removal] at all, and if there were problems, we would definitely hear about them. It’s been surprisingly quiet, so I take that as a vote of ‘fine with us’,” Ellis said. “The transition has gone remarkably well so far – just let me find some wood to knock on.”