By Lisa Behnke
Policies regarding the use of cell phones in class are not yet in place at the college, but soon may be. Texting during class has become a real problem and more professors are becoming aware that a college wide policy may be necessary.
In today’s high tech environment, it is possible to instantaneously transmit words and pictures. For some it is an obsession, not unlike an addiction, one that is hard to break. “It ‘s become an issue,” said William F. Connor Jr., associate vice president for academic affairs and college dean of faculty. “A policy is currently being drafted to ban cell phone use in the classroom,” said Connor.
The policy is in the development stage, and once approved will allow professors to enforce it within the guidelines of the College wide policy much in the same way they do with absences. Cell phone use in the classroom has increased in recent years and forced some professors to take matters into their own hands. For Professor William Burns of the English Department, it is extremely distracting during lessons, not only for students but also for him. “By including it in my syllabus, it acts as my contract with the student,” said Burns. Professor Burns wrote about the topic last semester as a guest writer on the Campus Reporter, the campus’ news blog. “Cell phones and all who genuflect before their sacredness are the cause of the Kafkaesque nightmare of the 21st century,” Burns eloquently asserted in his article.
This type of behavior has become so intense that texting while driving is about to be banned state-wide. Already banned in Nassau and Suffolk counties, the New York State ban on text messaging by motorists is expected to take effect on Nov. 1, pending the approval of Gov. David Paterson. According to the Government Highway Safety Association, 18 states and the District of Columbia now ban text messaging for all drivers. It would seem that common sense would dictate such behavior as being unsafe.
The problems professors face in the classroom are those of distraction, not only for students and those around them, but for professors whose lessons are disrupted. Don’t put your cell phones away just yet, however. The school doesn’t wish to completely exorcise cell phones. The college web page encourages students to sign up for the NY-Alert program, which utilizes text messages as one method of contacting students about important announcements, such as the cancellation of classes due to inclement weather or incidents that pose a concern to campus safety. A service of the New York State Emergency Management Office, the alert system does not soley rely on text messaging; alerts can also be recieved via e-mail or fax. When questioned about this contradiction in school policy, Connors replied, “I really don’t have an answer for that.” He did however express the importance of both issues.
The reason the college decided to participate with the NY-Alert program was in direct result of the events of 9/11, as well as increased violence on campuses throughout the nation. “There is no real sense of direct communication within the classrooms,” said Connors. The example that came to mind was that of the Secure-in-Place drill, where personnel alerted students of potential threats on campus by bullhorn. Having an alert system students could access by cell phone was a means of getting to the majority of students. “We are currently working on intercom systems for the classroom to combat these communications problems,” said Connors.
As for the issue of texting, professors are at a point where they can dictate their own policy as they see fit. Good advice to students, excuse yourself from class if you have an emergency, otherwise keep your phone tucked away until class is over.