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WKU might remove dorm phones

Western Kentucky University officials are weighing the need of phone lines in residence halls against the possible cost savings of removing them.

The research follows the University of Kentucky's decision to pull the cord on residence hall phone availability because most students use cell phones. The Lexington university announced it will save $25 per land line a month for a total saving of $840,000 a year.

But the cost savings at Western might not be worth the change, WKU officials said.

Edwin Craft, director of telecommunications and interactive video services at WKU, said officials annually look at the phone system and re-evaluate its necessity.

Craft said that the university as a whole functions on a large trunk line that provides service to residence halls, faculty and staff all over campus. Craft said while there might be a small savings in removing the service from the living areas, it would essentially just transfer the cost to the rest of the university.

Craft said removing the service would also hinder the effectiveness of Western's new emergency phone notification system that is designed to alert students with a phone call when there is a crisis on campus.

"It's still a lifeline and safety device provided to the students," Craft said "The system makes about 200 calls per minute as part of our crisis communication plan. We've never used the system yet, but it's in place."

Nearly 99 percent of students reported having cell phones last year, Craft said, and campus phone-line use has been declining annually by 50 percent for the last four years, but he said he fears becoming dependent on cell phones.

Craft said the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina show that cell phone towers might not always have the capacity to deal with the massive numbers of calls that typically occur during an emergency.

"There's always a safety factor in" removing the land lines, Craft said. "Thus far the decision has been leaving telephone lines in the residence halls."

Craft said he is reviewing the potential savings, and isn't seeing numbers as large as UK's. He said because all the university's phone service comes through one Bell South trunk line, which would still have to be maintained and paid for, removing the service from just residence halls would not produce the same savings as at UK.

"From a support issue, we would still have to maintain the same amount of support to maintain the capacity of the phone lines," he said. "Usage is still good. Last year there were 1.5 million minutes used in residence halls."

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