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Potential consequence for in-class texting disproportionate to offence

January 18, 2019 —

The start of a new semester brings the customary spiel from instructors during the first day of class about the importance of being an attentive student. This entails the value of actually going to class, taking notes and the proper use of technology during lecture.

This semester in particular, however, several of our professors placed a stronger emphasis than in previous semesters on not using cell phones during class. In their course outlines, some professors indicated that previous concerns from students led to the more stringent policies.

Comparing current course outlines to their older iterations, not much has changed in regards to actual written policy. Electronic policies limit the use of technology for only class purposes, prohibiting their use for communication.

However, one thing that is apparent after going through several course outlines is that electronic use policies are not consistent between departments. Each class within a department usually has the same statement regarding electronic usage, though the severity of the consequence for using your phone in class varies between faculties and departments. For example, course outlines in the Faculty of Science are the most strict, where students who use their phone for communication may be asked to leave the classroom and face misconduct charges for repeated violations. In contrast, some departments, like economics and languages, just state that cell phones are prohibited without specifying consequences.

We live in a time where technology use is a daily reality. All faculties at the University of Calgary should have electronic use policies that are similar in scope to avoid confusion and keep standards consistent. These policies, however, should not go as far as to kick students out of class or write them up for non-academic misconduct for simply texting in class.

Casually texting in class is definitely rude and disrespectful towards the instructor. It shows a blatant disregard for what professors are teaching and the position they hold.

Moreover, you’re paying good money to attend this class and learn something. You’re doing yourself a disservice by taking away from what you should be learning when you’re distracted by your phone.

But should there be policies that allow instructors to kick you out of lecture and charge you with misconduct for just texting?

We’re no longer in high school. It’s no longer the school’s responsibility to teach you how to behave by having institutional consequences for lacking common courtesy. Though texting during class is rude, the possible consequences for a student typing away on their phone are disproportionate to the indiscretion.  

The only time consequences from the university should be issued to students who use their phones inappropriately is if the use causes a disturbance to others in the class. If it takes away another student’s opportunity to learn, there should be ways to address this.

But stopping teaching to ask a student to leave midway through the lecture just because they took a cursory glance at their phone to send some mindless text creates a larger disruption for the whole class.

Students should be courteous of their peers and instructors when using cellphones in class. But as long as the use of phones doesn’t cause a disruption to others, policies that strictly prohibit their use with potential charges of misconduct are an overstep.

Derek Baker, Gauntlet editorial board

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