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KU Info, dubbed ‘Google before Google,’ closes its doors after more than 50 years

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Post updated at 12:42 p.m. Friday:

After more than half a century, 785-864-3506 no longer directs a dialer to the answer for any question they could have about the University of Kansas.

That number, for KU Info, now goes to an automated response stating that the service has shut down.

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“Hello, Jayhawks! As of today, KU Info services will end,” the organization wrote in social media posts on Thursday. “KU Info proudly served the campus for over 50 plus years. Our text line, email, phone, and social media platforms will no longer be operative. We want to thank the Jayhawk students, faculty, and staff. Rock Chalk!”

Numerous disappointed social media users called the service “Google before Google,” and remembered stories from their college days of the service helping not only with legitimate questions about the university, but help ordering a late-night pizza, finding someone’s shoes and naming the theme song to a movie.

The organization did not address why it closed its doors Thursday. A KU spokesperson, asked why KU Info closed and for a comment on its legacy, directed questions to Student Senate. Former Student Senate leadership did not immediately respond to requests for information Friday.

KU Info started in 1970 as a response to the dramatic unrest that swept the campus that year — the Kansas Union was firebombed that April, and Rick “Tiger” Dowdell and Harry “Nick” Rice, KU students, were killed in the span of four days in July.

“It was soon determined by both students and KU administrators that a single phone line needed to be identified to handle rumor control,” KU Info’s website says. “This line would answer to parents, media, students, and the community, and would help to settle an otherwise unsettled environment on campus.”

The service started out in Strong Hall, KU’s administration building, with the same 864-3506 number it had until Thursday. Its mission, according to the KU Info website, was to “serve as a humanizing element in a large, sometimes confusing university system, to help navigate the waters of KU, and help students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the community to gain access to information.”

After KU Info moved out of Strong Hall, it occupied space in both the Kansas Memorial Union and on Jayhawk Boulevard and regularly struggled to obtain full funding — even before the advent of the internet forced the service to redefine itself. In recent years, many frequently asked questions made their way to a landing page on the organization’s website, though it retained an in-person presence to answer inquiries.

Here are some social media memories of KU Info and reactions to its closure:

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Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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