Our view: Communication comes at a high cost

It’s the cost of doing business. It’s the cost of staying connected. It’s the cost of running the university efficiently.

University administrators essentially threw around all those ideas in response to Kent State’s $450,000 cell phone bill last year and the $230,000 bill so far this fiscal year.

We get it. Cell phones are the way of life nowadays. BlackBerrys, which the administrators receive, are even better at keeping people in the loop, and that’s important. After all, as one university employee explained, campus emergencies don’t always happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Kent State’s top dogs and certain Campus and Environment Operations managers need to communicate easily if, for instance, a pipe bursts in Eastway.

But it seems peculiar that last year Kent State spent almost double on cell phones compared to Ohio State, which has nearly twice as many students. Maybe Kent State’s high bills stem from the fact that the university currently does not have a policy for employee cell phone use. Instead, individual college departments manage and pay for the phones.

As President Lester Lefton explained, “If they (individual college departments) choose to spend money on telecommunications rather than on pencils or desks or refurbishment or supplies, it’s just one of a series of charges.”

Although the cell phone users are, in theory, supposed to reimburse Kent State for any non-business use, the university cannot say how much money that cuts from the $450,000 or $230,000 figures because the information isn’t centrally logged anywhere.

Luckily, Lefton said the university is now looking into adopting a policy that would issue stipends – $50, $100 and $150 – to cell phone users each month, depending on the employees’ responsibilities.

This ideology seems more cost-effective and practical, compared to the current method of the university footing the entire bill and then receiving kickbacks from the users for their personal use.

Even so, let’s go a step further. How much money do the administrators really need for their cell phones, considering their salaries all exceed the six-figure mark? Give stipends to the university employees who make significantly less money each year.

As the university looks to tighten its budget, this is a prime example of a place to do it that won’t affect students or lay off employees. Why not consult with other universities as well? Lefton said Kent State’s looking at a method similar to the University of Toledo’s, but we hope that means the university has shopped around to look at all methods.

It’s scary to think Kent State doesn’t already have a set cell phone policy, so when we finally do get one, it should be a well thought-out plan that focuses on saving money. As students, some of us know the agony of having to pay our own cell phone bills each month. The university should feel the same way when it analyzes its cell phone bills.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial boards.