Sep 292009
Authors: J. David McSwane

As academic departments across campus fight the ripping tide of devastating budget cuts, nixing everything from class sections to paper clips and print handouts, CSU students will feel the sting of the financial crisis inside the classroom and out.

But students of the Communication Studies Department are in for a bigger, almost sardonically comical, surprise: the department has axed most of its phone lines to lessen the blow.

That’s right. Many Communication professors and staff — 11 regular faculty and 19 in all — are no longer available by phone.

“It’s sort of the ultimate irony,” said Sue Pendell, chair of the department, adding that she suggested removing the phone lines earlier this month to very little resistance, though at least one steadfast phone jockey spoke against the move.

“I took that as a ‘we don’t care,’ so we took them (the phones) out,” Pendell said. ” . We’re still pretty easy to communicate with.”

Most professors consider the traditional phones archaic and prefer e-mail or personal cell phones to communicate with students, she said.

And while Communications Studies begins its study of almost entirely computer-mediated correspondence, other departments, namely English, are investigating the possibility of a no-phones department.

Brad Bohlander, CSU’s top spokesperson, says these type of small, yet conspicuous cuts will be felt everywhere.

He said this fiscal year’s 5 percent base cut to all eight academic colleges is delegated to and spread among “colleges and their units” — an effort to absorb some of the downward spiral of budget shortfalls.

CSU administration has also seen an 8 percent cut this year, up 2 percent from last year, seen mostly in the eliminations of top administrative posts under President Tony Frank, Bohlander added.

Cuts to printing, class sections, phone lines and a myriad of other potential cuts are the prerogative of department chairs and deans.

Other department cuts are likely to include: social events, regular office supplies, paper, office printer cartridges and copy machine privileges.

“We’re cutting everything we possibly can,” Pendell said last week. “Big, serious cuts on copying,” adding that most of the cuts directly increase the financial burden on students.

This year, if a student needs a letter of recommendation, either the student or professor will eat the cost.

“There’s no doubt it’s cost shifting to the student,” she said. “It’s going to get tougher. It’s not within (students’) control, and it’s not under our control.”

The Communication Studies Department has yet to cut any full-time or adjunct faculty but has cut some class sessions for all instructors in an effort to “spread the pain.”

Irene Vernon, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and ethnic studies chair, says that while many budgetary concessions are bound to be made during the current financial bog, cutting phone lines could cripple university departments.

“I am opposed to cutting phones in any departments,” she said. “Historically, (liberal arts) have the most students on campus; we should have a little more money for phones . I think that’s just a basic service a college should provide.”

Vernon said the recent ousting of phone lines in Communication Studies is “totally hilarious in a sad way.”

“The most ironic cuts are the phones — and the most troubling,” she said.

Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane can be reached at

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