College switchboard now closed at night

The switchboard will no longer field incoming calls after 4:30 P.M. on weekdays.

The college switchboard’s hours during the week have been curtailed.

The operator will now leave at 4:30 p.m. The evening shift, formerly manned by two part-timers, has been done away with entirely.

While this has been done from a budgetary perspective, not everyone is pleased by the decision.

“This decision has caused me a new level of concern that I otherwise never felt,” says Lori Bean, Professor of Chemistry. “Because I do teach a night class – Chemistry lab goes until 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday nights.”

During the Fall Semester alone, there are 89 courses that meet between 4 p.m. and midnight, including subjects ranging from Welding Symbols to Pre-Teen Tap-Dancing and, of course, Chemistry.

“I was concerned that perhaps parents trying to reach their students, or other family members trying to reach a student, would not have a number to call,” Bean says. “I still do not know the answer to that question. How will the community be able to reach someone on campus? I don’t know what they will use anymore.”

Sue Wetzel, vice president of Administration,  explains why the change was made.

“Funding for the two part-time positions that staffed the evening and Saturday hours at the switchboard was cut from the 2018-2019 budget,” she writes in an e-mail. “The switchboard operator was not handling a large volume of calls or walk-up student/community members during the evening and weekend hours.”

The college then made the decision to handle the call volume through an automated system. Faculty, staff, and students will now have to contact either security or maintenance if they require help.

“Signage is also being placed in all the classrooms and public areas on campus listing the security phone number,” Wetzel writes.

Kelly Heinzerling, the Director of Purchasing and Auxiliary Services, explains that new recordings are being made that will also give callers the phone numbers of security and maintenance.

“There will be availability for them to contact someone on-campus if they want to, you know, walk out to their cars or if they have concerns from an emergency standpoint,” she says.

Bill Myers, the head of campus security, says he thinks the shortened hours will not be a massive sea-change.

“It’s not going to be during the daytime working hours,” he says. “We don’t get much going through the operator at that time. So what we’ve had a lot of is getting radioed by the custodians.”

Both maintenance and security carry walkie-talkies. The custodians will alert security if something occurs that they should know about.

“That’s the key to everything around here: communication,” Myers says.

He emphasizes the new posters hung up around campus, which give the Security office and cell phone numbers.

“If a student has a problem, I hope they would have this information,” he says. “If they are unable to get ahold of anybody, we need to know about it.”

However, some people have misgivings about the abbreviated hours.

Ethan Dixon has worked maintenance at the college for two years.

“I don’t really understand why they’re doing it,” he says. “It’s just going to give us more work. But I guess that’s what we’re here for.”

Bean has concerns about faculty being able to contact the college.

“How will, say, an adjunct be able to call in and inform the division that they won’t be in to teach?” she says.

Student Avery Haynes is concerned about what to do during an on-campus crisis.

“If there’s an emergency that pops up, I would like to be able to contact someone on or off-campus,” says Haynes.

He goes on to mention the poor cell phone reception on-campus.

“I tried calling my friend and the call dropped,” he says. “I would like to be able to make a call if something serious occurs on campus. But currently I can’t because my phone gets no service here.”

Myers notes that the college is, in fact, doing something about that issue.

“I talked to Randy Daniels, the dean of students,” he says. “Part of the new updates that we’re doing around here is that we’re going to be putting repeaters in the buildings so that the cell phone coverage should be a lot better.”