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Cutting the wires

By | March 13, 2009 | News

Matt Weir / The Collegian
Bulldog Calling Project to upgrade campus phone system

The Bulldog Calling Project will bring a new telephone system to Fresno State in the upcoming fall semester.

The project, estimated to cost $2.2 million, will upgrade 3,800 campus phone lines and 4,400 extensions. The current phone system is more than 20 years old and university officials say it is not longer reliable from a safety or functionality standpoint.

At a time when budgets are tight, university officials say this is an upgrade that needs to be made.
“This project is driven by a concern for reliable communication. It is also imperative that emergency phones, elevator phones, fire alarms, panic buttons and classroom phones are working reliably,” said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, vice president for administration and chief financial officer.

Teniente-Matson said that because of the difficult financial situation, the project has been stretched across two fiscal years. She added that the size and complexity of the project has also been limited to reduce costs.

The project is being centrally funded through the campus but the new system may cost more for some departments.

“Like any large change, this will inconvenience a lot of people but the end result will be well worth the investment,” Teniente-Matson said.

The project will be in the design phase until the end of March. During this phase, the vendor, Altura Communication Solutions, is reviewing floor plans and department-designated design coordinators are working to determine which phone devices are necessary and which lines can be removed.

Once the new system and phones are in place, training for faculty and staff will be provided through an educational video, training sessions and cheat sheets. The Help Desk will also be trained to offer support. Implementation will occur in June through August and the new system will be ready to go for the Fall 2009 semester.

Project manager Philip Neufeld said life safety is the key driver of this project. “You want those things to work,” he said, in regards to blue light and elevator phones on campus.

Neufeld said the new phones have more than 900 features including 6-way conference calling and a paging system for the classrooms in case of an emergency. Because of budget cuts, many features will not be available right away and will be introduced slowly to help with initial implementation and training costs.

“Safety is the main concern but the other features are nice,” he said.

Departments were able to decide between three phone models to use and were encouraged to choose the one that allows them to do their jobs in a cost effective way. “Everyone did a real prudent job of being stewards of campus resources,” Neufeld said.

“I was proud of people.”

Neufeld said that if the current system were to fail, it might not be able to be fixed. He added that the system is so old; some of the parts do not even exist. He further explained that over time, the new system will save money because it will be more energy efficient and require less maintenance.

Although the initial project, as well as campus phones, such as the ones located in classrooms and emergency phones, are funded by the university, individual departments will be charged for phone usage as well as a device fee to cover the new phones. Depending on their specific phone needs and usage some departments may see an increase while others may see a decrease in cost.

College of Arts and Humanities Associate Dean José Díaz is the design coordinator for his college. He said that despite the unfortunate financial timing, this project is necessary as the campus advances technologically.

The College of Arts and Humanities is following the lead of the linguistics department and urging all departments within the college to go green. He said saving costs in one way can help accommodate for other expenses that will come out of the colleges operating budget.

“It’s like all of us in our own personal budget,” Díaz said.

“We have so much money coming in every year and there are costs that adjust one way or another and we sort of just have to manage our budgets the best we can to get what we need.”

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