By Ariana Bernstein and Ben Seibel
“Oh my god! Son of a bitch!” College
first-year Cary Cody exclaimed upon learning that the AT&T Campus
e-Plan has to be activated before the rate drops below the default
15 cents per minute for state-to-state calls.
Most first-years interviewed were not aware of the e-Plan activation
clause. Some said the letter — left in all first-year mailboxes
prior to orientation, with a phone card enclosed and bearing the
Oberlin seal — should have been more clear.
“Seriously?” first-year Julie Haubenstock responded
after being told the details of the e-Plan. “That’s
mighty sneaky. I didn’t sign up. I never noticed [the fee].
My mom is going to kill me. My mom is going to shoot me.”
Others say they came to college knowing the rates might be expensive
and planned in advance by buying cell phones, many of which offer
free long distance.
“I use my cell phone to call my parents once a week,”
first-year Jon Good said. “I also call my friends at home.
The [AT&T] plan is more complicated and a lot more expensive.”
In the town of Oberlin some cell phones service carriers provide
erratic service at best. Some just don’t work in Oberlin,
causing students to fall back on their room phones and the AT&T
“My cell phone hasn’t been working in Oberlin, so I’ve
been using the room phone,” Cody said. “I had no idea
it cost that much.”
Cody is not alone. The first week of college is filled with general
confusion and lots of paper work. With the pressure of signing up
for classes and getting settled in, many new students reported they
missed the fine print when figuring out how much they were paying
for their phone service.
When first-years arrived on campus, they found their mailboxes stuffed
with schedules, directories, a book of coupons and an envelope from
AT&T and Oberlin College containing a letter and a phone card.
The letter explains that each card gives students their own PIN
number so that their calls can be accurately charged to their personal
The letter offers students the option to sign up on-line for the
AT&T Campus e-Plan, which gives subscribers “a great student
rate” of seven cents a minute on nights and weekends.
With the e-Plan, interstate calls made Monday through Friday between
the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. cost nine cents a minute.
Nowhere in the main body of the letter does it inform the student
of the 15-cent fee. There are two asterisks next to the Campus e-Plan
offer. If the reader traces the asterisks to the bottom of the page,
it says in small, light type, “If you do not sign up for an
optional savings plan, you pay the standard discount rate of fifteen
cents a minute on state-to-state calls you make using the PSC [Personal
When informed of this letter, Assistant Director of the Student
Union Tina Zwegat said, “ [The AT&T plan] is the only
plan used with the campus system.”
The College’s Manager of Telephone Services Bea Skeens deferred
comment to Director of Purchasing and Auxiliary Services Gary Koepp.
Koepp could be not be reached for comment.
Some first-years said they opted for phone cards, and that the AT&T
plan seemed confusing and unappealing from the start.
“The phone card and letter we received were
not very explicit about the cost of long distance calls,”
said first year Becky Popuch. “It seemed much easier to get
a prepaid calling card because the charges were made clear.”