For prospective students, the University’s
residence halls are not its strongest selling point. Compared to
other schools of similar expense, residence hall rooms at the
University are surprisingly spartan. In sharp contrast to these
barren surroundings, this year the University has outfitted every
residence hall student with a personalized, state of the art
voicemail system. While the University prides itself on its early
adoption of this technology, the expense for the installation of
the system is unwarranted and unnecessarily confusing for students
living in the residence halls.
Unlike other technological features in the residence halls,
students are not given the option of deciding if they will use the
new voicemail system. Students who do not wish to have cable in
their rooms have the option of not paying for this service.
Similarly, those who do not wish to utilize the Ethernet
connections in their rooms have the same option. In the case of
this voicemail system, however, students have no such choice. Vast
numbers of students use cellular phones, and they have no use for
the caller ID and voice mail systems in their rooms.
The University claims that students are not eligible for a
refund for these services because students do not explicitly pay
for them. According to the University, “Each residence hall room
has a touch-tone telephone with voice mail features provided at no
charge,” but this does not mean the caller ID and voice mail come
free. It simply means the University does not itemize them as a
charge on students’ bills. Because the telephone companies do not
provide these features to the University gratis, students are
indeed paying for these services, presumably through room and
The University wants to be able to say that it provides
first-rate communications technology to the students living on
campus, but it overlooks the uncomfortable reality that in many
cases these features are simply not needed or desired. Meanwhile,
other, more functional improvements to the residence halls’
physical plant are overlooked.
Most discouraging of all, the University’s new voicemail system
may disrupt the roommate friendships that develop during students
time in the residence halls. While the previous system allowed
individuals to easily leave voicemail messages for multiple
roommates, the new system separates voicemail accounts discourages
this critical social interaction that is often the centerpiece of
students life in the residence halls.