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What happened to my room phone?” “How do I use the Jabber app?” “Can I still call people’s extension?” These are a few of the many concerns that have arisen from the student body and faculty due to the installment of the new Cisco phone system this past spring. As confusing as this change has seemed at times, all change becomes normal after a little time, patience, and with a willingness to adapt.
“It’s not negative, but it’s an adjustment,” Brooks resident counselor Louise Kingsbery said.
After hearing feedback from students, it became clear that the reasoning for a new phone system was not apparent to many people. Robin Burns, telecommunications supervisor for the College campus, shared many factors that necessitated this transition. In reference to the old phone system that used the ROLM phones (the room phones), Burns said, “It had an expected life plan … that threshold was crossed several years ago. It should have been done four or five years sooner.”
Burns also mentioned that because the old phone system was so obsolete, it had become near impossible to find technicians to repair the phones or locate replacement parts.
Ferguson resident counselor Dan Schneider echoed the antiquated status of the ROLM system when he said, (that) “In the last three to five years, we’ve had the addition of the AT&T tower, the adoption of cell phones and great Wi-Fi, and a student body who no longer needs ROLM phones.”
The quest for a new phone system began around six years ago. It included an exhaustive research process to ensure that all options were considered. The pros and cons of each option were reviewed. The concerns were prioritized in terms of ease of maintenance and where system experts were located. The search was eventually narrowed to three providers. After looking at the abilities of each brand to see which would better meet Principia’s needs, Cisco proved to be the best choice.
When asked about the advantages of Cisco, Burns said that “The main benefit is that we are using a forward-working technology. It will continue to work well and function for at least 10 years.”
The telecommunications department, however, was concerned with more than the overall usage and convenience of the system. Meetings were held with administration and the student government near the end of the decision-making process.
Consideration for the student needs and usage of the phone system was also a major factor in adopting Jabber. Jabber is the application that enables calls to individual’s extensions to be forwarded to their cellphone. The idea was that using Jabber would be a replacement for the small number who did use their room phones.
Many students have communicated that Jabber is where much of the confusion and neglect for this new system occurs. Not only do a lot of students feel as though they do not know how to work the app, but many have not even downloaded it.
Senior Grace Karanu commented that although she is aware of the app and has a general understanding of how it works, she has never used it herself. “The change really didn’t make a difference to me. I had a cellphone before and after, and my professors still communicate by email,” she said. Junior Joseph Kariuki also felt as though the change did not greatly disable him.
“I have never used the app. I used to use the old phones to make international calls, and now I still use a calling card to call home, just through my cellphone,” he said.
While Burns admits that it has not worked as well as they had hoped it would, it’s best to be patient with this new technology. “The biggest problem is the development of the cellphone. That development happens daily and it is hard for Cisco to keep up … we expect Cisco to improve the app so that it is more reliable,” he said.
What many people do not know is that this app has great potential; all we have to do it learn how to work it. Jabber, which can be used on smartphones as well as not-so-smart phones, still enables callers to dial anyone’s extension and leave messages.
Kingsbery is still an avid phone user and leaves the women in her house daily messages. The girls can open these messages from email into iTunes from a computer or a smartphone.
Kingsbery also brought to light a concern with the Cisco system. “It’s hardest for people without a phone or without AT&T,” she said. However, she added that those people have found other means to communicate because they have had to.
Burns was also concerned about those who did not have phones and commented, “We still felt that there was a need to provide something. No matter what you have [technology], there is the email input method and everyone can access that. Also, everyone has a Prin login and access to computer labs. There won’t be have and have-nots,” he said.
With the accessibility of the many different apps today, there are endless options for communication. People can text and call internationally without using a cell service provider thanks to apps like Vonage. There is also face-to-face communication through Google Plus, Skype, and FaceTime. Of course, this is if you have a capable device. School computers do have video capabilities.
While it is okay to have mourned the loss of room phones, the end of the ROLM phone era was necessary; replaced with a system that allows Principia the same technological advantages of other institutions.