Request for Reconsideration of GGC-Issued Cell Phone Policy

President Joseph, Georgia Gwinnett College Cabinet Members

Under the current economic and pandemic crises that we face today, communication and engagement between educators and their students is of the utmost importance. Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) was founded with innovative practices that promised to change the game for students of all ages and backgrounds through its affordability and a strong connection through communication, individualized attention, and deeper commitment to faculty/student engagement than other USG institutions. This is the core of GGC’s model and is threatened by current proposed changes in cell phone policies.

To: President Joseph, Georgia Gwinnett College Cabinet Members
From: [Your Name]

The undersigned stakeholders, which are faculty, staff, students and parents of students of Georgia Gwinnett College, request that you reconsider the new policies regarding the termination of providing cellular phones and their service in favor of transitioning to ‘softphone’ technology within the spring 2021 semester time frame.
We understand that we must be careful and considerate stewards of institutional funds. But while moving to “softphone” technology may seem like a money-saving option, this transition will undermine core parts of our appeal to students, further threatening enrollment. The following bullets express how we anticipate that the transition from cellular phones to “softphones” will negatively change the game for GGC’s faculty, staff and students:

· The transition plan was announced at the onset of the spring semester, well after faculty had received the semi-annual syllabus template, which contains extensive verbiage on the College’s communication policies. We will now have to change student expectations mid-semester.

· Deployment of the new “softphone” plan will begin under pandemic conditions and with many courses solely or mostly virtual, ease of communication is key to student success.

· The transition plan delivered to faculty is exceptionally vague, with promises of training opportunities to come and no clarity about exceptions.

· “Softphone” technology security is questioned and faculty are concerned that communications exchanged by this system will be in violation of FERPA.

· Wi-fi connectivity is an ongoing issue on campus. The expectation of communication with students only using the internet is premature at best.

· The most functional components of the multi-factorial authentication needed for access to our GGC email, learning management system (D2L), Banner, etc. requires a cell phone.

· Faculty cell phones are used for far more than phone calls and text messaging.
Many faculty use the camera features (photo/video) to record student work or contribute to virtual instruction.

In these extraordinary times, it is vital for institutions to do their utmost to support their mission. But GGC has chosen to abandon proven technologies for effective communication and engagement with students. We ask that President Joseph and the Cabinet members of GGC reconsider the ill-informed mandate to move from established communication and engagement practices using cell phones to new, less tested and insecure “softphone” technology.