They could be found in restroom foyers, outside restaurants and even in dedicated booths on the street, but in the wake of the cell phone era, pay phones are disappearing like boats in the Bermuda Triangle – and Northern Kentucky University’s phones are no exception.
Students who need to use a pay phone will notice that the familiar phones throughout campus are no longer there. “The company we had the phones through just came and took them out,” said Sandy Fromeyer, telecommunications coordinator. “They didn’t notify us or anything.”
Pinnacle Products, formerly Gregg Hart Communications, is the company NKU had the pay phone contract with. Lucas Todd, phone sales manager for Pinnacle Products, said, “Our contract doesn’t state that we have to notify anyone if we remove the phones. Most kids in college have cell phones and the pay phones just weren’t profitable.”
Most college students might think everyone has a cell phone, but Amirah Davis, a junior nursing major, isn’t like most. She said, “They need to have phones available around campus.”
Pay phones were once located outside of the Office of First Year Programs in Founder’s Hall. Susan Chenot, academic support for First Year Programs, said that not having the pay phones has been a real inconvenience. “We have students, faculty and staff in here all day long asking if they can use our phone.” She said that the office isn’t allowed to let people use their phone, but in some emergency cases she’ll dial the number and let them make the call.
“I think we really need to have the pay phones put back in,” Chenot said. “There’s been a huge request for them in here from people who don’t have cell phones or can’t use theirs for whatever reason.”
Shelby Shafer, freshman chemistry and pre-veterinary major, works at the Information Desk in the University Center. Shafer said people don’t usually ask to use its phone but she does have people ask where they can find phones.
“I usually send them downstairs and we’ve never really had anyone come back and complain about not being able to call out,” Shafer said. “However, I still think we need pay phones.”
NKU’s Telecommunications and Information Technology is working on improving the phone situation. Fromeyer said, “We’ve programmed the lobby phones, which used to be only for on-campus calls, to call out.”
Heavier phones have now replaced the white phones, which are now capable of calling local numbers for no charge.
Unfortunately, the lobby phones cannot be used to call long distance.
“We can’t allow those phones to call long distance because the ability was abused,” Fromeyer said. “People found out that they could call Zimbabwe or Switzerland and we were getting stuck with huge phone bills from those unnecessary long distance calls.” However, with a calling card, you can use the lobby phones to call anywhere.
If someone doesn’t have a calling card and needs to make a long distance call, which includes calls to Indiana, Lori McMillin, administrative support manager for IT, said they could make it happen. “If someone needs to call long distance, they just need to contact us and I’m sure we can make arrangements,” she said.
McMillin also said that the lobby phones are not the permanent solution. “It’s very difficult to find pay phones these days, we’ll keep exploring our options to get something back on campus.” McMillin recommends that if someone needs to make a long distance call and the offices are not open, to contact University Police for assistance.