Mary Ann Chirba (Boston College) asked me to share her cell phone policy:
A chronic issue flared yet again today. With this message, I hope to extinguish it once and for all.
Continued cell phone use in class is absolutely unacceptable for many reasons. Here is the short list:
- 1. It is distracting to your classmates and me.
- 2. It is completely unprofessional. Try engaging in this behavior with your supervisor at work and see how well it goes over.
- 3. It is rude. It is simply and undeniably rude.
I am extremely frustrated because I have never had to mention this more than once in past years. We are up to 9 times this year - and these do not include the instances that I have seen but not mentioned.
Using a smart phone in class is not smart because it is completely visible in this school's classrooms. There is nothing to block another person's view of you beyond the 2-3 inch slab of desk. Even if there were, looking down at your lap for extended periods of time is neither casual nor covert.
Here is a bright line test to determine whether phone use is acceptable and not:
Unless you are dealing with genuinely extenuating circumstances (e.g., you are waiting for a doctor to call), or you are seated in a room filled with complete strangers (e.g., a waiting room, airport, etc.) it is not appropriate to interact with your cell if it would not be appropriate to crack open a beer.
You are in a professional program. I understand that you are "just" law students - but all of law school and LRRW in particular is about learning what it means to be a professional and how to achieve professional excellence. I try to keep things low key in class even though we are working through increasingly difficult material - but do NOT confuse calm with casual. Cell phones, like beer, are a no go in class.
As I indicated when I addressed this issue last fall through both email and in class, I work REALLY hard in this course, but I should not be working harder than you. If you are texting, I am definitely working harder than you - and so are your classmates. I may seem to be coming down harder than other professors on this issue. I probably am because banning laptops makes cell use highly visible. Please know, however, that using your cell is just as inappropriate in other classes.
Moreover, it hurts YOU! Beyond being rude and unprofessional, it impedes your ability to follow the discussion. Do not pretend that a quick text or email check is no big deal. You will miss information simply because your brain is not wired to process and encode these types of competing inputs. If you think this is just my subjective belief, do a quick PubMed search and you will find more than many studies that back this up. Or simply find a classmate who did not take a walk on the cellular side: either s/he will have better notes or be a strong auditory processor.
You need not buy into my reasons for taking this position. However, you do need to know that further cell phone episodes will yield one of two reactions:
- 1. I will ask you to leave the classroom immediately, and you will miss the rest of whatever we are covering that day. Even if you put your phone away or throw it out the window, you will need to leave class for the balance of the period.
- 2. As you check your messages on your phone, I will do the same. Instead of helping you overcome the challenges of AM2 - something for which you pay very big bucks - I will check to see if my friend got back to me about dinner and peruse Zappo's end of season clearance. If this is how I spent class time, you would not be happy, and deservedly so. In this respect, I am no different than you.
Long email short:
Passive voice: Your cell phone may not be used by you in class.
Active voice: Knock it off.