The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 42.0°F | Overcast

Dorm Front Desks Can Transfer Calls, Allowing People Off-Campus to Call In

By John A. Hawkinson

Want your parents to be able to call your dormitory phone, but didn’t pay for service? Have them call your dormitory front desk, and ask to be transferred.

Few students are aware that they can transfer phone calls. In an e-mail and telephone survey of undergraduate dormitory front desks, no respondents were aware that they could transfer. Several desk captains, students who manage dormitory desks, said that front desks would be willing to transfer incoming calls to students, as long as the requests were not too frequent.

▶Analog phone users can transfer a call in progress by pressing the switch hook, dialing the destination number, and then hanging up.◀

Telephone calls can be transferred to and from dormitory phones with basic service. Basic dormitory phones are those for which the residents have elected not to pay the new $17/month fee for full phone service and can neither place nor receive calls from outside campus. The fee was introduced this September because of Housing’s budget constraints, as well as increases in the cost of telephone service campus-wide.

The Tech incorrectly reported on Sept. 13 that “it is not possible to transfer outside calls to a basic telephone.” Information Services and Technology had intended to restrict that service, but has revised its intentions, at least for now.

IS&T had planned to eliminate transfers to basic telephones as part of the Sept. 12 transition, but that did not happen for technical reasons, according to Allison F. Dolan, director of telephony for IS&T. In the ensuing time period, other reasons to keep transfers possible have become apparent.

Deans on Call, who provide “emergency support for students and others in the MIT community after hours,” need to be able to reach students in their dormitories after hours, said Andrew Ryder, assistant dean for Residential Life Programs.

“We have had some problems” reaching students, Ryder said, adding that “in an emergency, time is of the essence.” Ryder said he views the ability of the Deans on Call to be transferred to dormitory phones through dormitory desks as an “interim solution.”

Housing and IS&T are continuing discussions about the future of dormitory telephone pricing.

Undergraduate Association President John M. Cloutier ’06 said he will be at a brainstorming session next week with IS&T’s Dolan, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, and Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson. Cloutier said he is trying to initiate a voice-over-IP pilot program as a possible alternative, so students could place and receive phone calls over MITnet.

The Graduate Student Council has also been actively involved in discussions. Andr a E. Schmidt G, co-chair of the GSC’s Housing and Community Affairs Committee, said that the GSC has been pursuing options with IS&T and might like to see a third pricing option for students to be able to receive incoming calls without having to pay the entire $17 per month fee. While she is conscious that most solutions would involve MIT coming up with money, Schmidt said she would like Housing “to take another look” at the problem.

With energy prices continuing to rise, Housing is unlikely to have the budgetary flexibility to pay more for student phone service. IS&T sets phone pricing, and MIT’s Vice President for IS&T, Jerrold M. Grochow, said that IS&T was not trying to profit from the phone pricing increases. “The S in IS&T is for Service,” he said.