The Collegian
Sunday, March 07, 2021

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Phone Services may remove landlines

University of Richmond Phone Services may follow the University of Virginia's recent decision to remove landline telephones from residence halls.

"By April, we may make the recommendation, and could possibly do it next summer," said Doug West, director of Student Telecom Services. "We will replace individual room phonelines with public access and in-hallway phones."

Last spring semester, West formed a committee to discuss the repercussions of removing landlines as it relates to emergency communications. This committee included Telecom Services, student leaders, the housing department, university police and safety service personnel. The committee will reconvene in the near future to make a decision.

According to West, the change would be a multi-phase process in which phonelines would be pulled out of the dorms first, and then possibly removed from the University Forest Apartments.

"It would be nice to have additional emergency phones on campus that don't have a lot of foot traffic," senior Patty Drennan said. "It is comforting to have those phones if your cell phone dies or you don't have it."

Landlines do not seem to be of great value to students because they are not being used.

West said, "Less than 20 percent of the student body ever made an outgoing phone call over the entire academic term last year."

Drennan agreed.

"I don't think anyone I know uses their landlines and I have never thought about bringing a phone to school," Drennan said.

The most important aspect to consider was how pulling the phones will affect emergency communications, West said.

To focus on emergency communications, Telecom Services is also trying to expand cell phone coverage on campus with the construction of a cell tower.

The UR Alert system currently uses e-mail, text messages, dorm and cell phone notifications to alert students and faculty of emergency situations, West said.

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"The most effective system would be if people could receive these notifications where ever they were on campus," senior Jordan Baxter said. She just switched from T-Mobile to Verizon so she could be connected on campus.

Even with this communication system, West said many students chose not to take advantage of landlines, but that it was a great option to have.

"Freshman year, I had a phone plugged in but only because my mom did it," Baxter said.

Students and many families alike simply rely on their mobile phones. A survey by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics released in May found that about a quarter of American homes used only cell phones, and an additional 15 percent had a landline but received almost all calls on mobile devices, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to UVA Today, UVa.'s student newspaper, the University of Virginia will save $500,000 annually by eliminating landlines in the dorms.

"Everyone looks at spreadsheets differently," West said. "Cost alone is not a driving factor, and we will pull the landlines when we feel it is right."

He said he would do what needed to be done so that the most students would have access to the emergency phone calls.

Contact reporter Amanda Sullivan at amanda.sullivan@richmond.edu

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