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FSU Cutting Many Faculty Phones to Save Cash

If a Florida State University student needs to reach his English professor, he better have the teacher's cell phone number.

In a cost-saving move that illustrates just how dire the budget situation has become at FSU, the English department is in the process of removing almost all faculty members' office phones. The History and Modern Languages & Linguistics departments are taking similar steps.

"I've never seen anything like this before," English department chairman Ralph Berry said. "It's difficult to have an office and no phone.

"I think if parents of students who are coming here knew how austere the conditions are here compared to five years ago, they would be shocked," Berry added.

FSU and the other 10 schools in the State University System have suffered drastic reductions in funding from the state Legislature during each of the past three years. FSU is set to begin the 2009-10 school year with $83 million less than it had in 2006-07.

At FSU, some programs are being eliminated and others are being merged while scores of faculty are receiving notices that this will be their final year at the university. Meanwhile, individual department chairmen are trying to figure out ways they can trim expenses.

The English department, for example, has slashed its budget for paper from $7,000 to $1,500 and cut back the amount allocated for bringing in authors and lecturers from $30,000 to $16,000.

Removing approximately 40 faculty members' phones - two years after the department removed 33 phones to cut costs - will save between $12,000 and $16,000 a year, according to Berry.

"We're making choices where, do we use phones or do we increase the size of every class?" Berry said. "Given our priorities, this is less painful than other things."

Neil Jumonville, chairman of the history department, takes a similar view. He was informed last week that his budget was immediately being trimmed by $7,500. As a result, he plans on having 20 or more phones removed.

"It's just the least-terrible idea we have," Jumonville said. "It's not a good solution, but I don't see any other.

"My feeling is that it's going to hurt students. Students aren't going to be able to reach us by our office phones, or even leave messages there."

Students and faculty will have to rely on e-mail and cell phones to communicate, methods that would not have been available a decade or more ago. They may also use Skype, an Internet-based teleconference program.

But not all faculty members have cell phones. Silvia Valisa, a professor in modern languages, is about to lose her office phone and finds herself in the position of having to purchase a cell phone.

"Why don't they lower the AC instead?" Valisa said in an e-mail from out of the country. "Entire continents live happily without it, I can assure you of that. Even the warm ones."

Berry and Jumonville, who made the painful decisions to have phones removed, find themselves asking how much damage the various cuts have done to FSU's image and reputation.

"The thing that everybody needs to know, every new assistant professor across the country is reading the press about what's going on at Florida State and other schools in Florida," Berry said. "This means they will take a job here only if they can't get a job someplace else."

1 Responses »

  1. If the schools & professors want to keep up with their students, they need to move to email, cell phones or Blackboard. The vast majority of my professors don't use their office voice mail. If they're in class most of the time, what good does it do? Learn about online testing, print double-sided (I can't believe how many schools don't require that) & encourage office hours or email.