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University needs uniform cell phone policy for classes

Cell phones have become an important part of our daily lives. We carry them everywhere we go, just in case someone needs to get a hold of us because there’s some sweet party. Or maybe just in case we need to text our friends about how dull class is, even though they are sitting right next to us.

However, this distraction is proving to be too much for some school administrators, and they are bringing the hammer down on cell phone use.

Students at Milwaukee Public Schools are no longer allowed to carry cell phones in school, according to an AP story. In Milwaukee’s case, the ban was put into place after students used cell phones to call others when fights broke out in schools, often resulting in unsafe melees.

Other schools have put similar bans into place, some to prevent cheating and others to stop the distraction cell phones bring. There’s nothing like someone’s super-loud hip-hop ringer going off to bring a lecture to a halt.

I can see why there are such restrictions in place. Cell phones, specifically because of text messaging, make it easy for people to cheat on exams by sending answers to test-takers.

It has happened before. In 2003, USA Today reported on the case of 12 University of Maryland students who were implicated in cheating on an accounting exam. The students used their cell phones to receive text messages from friends outside of class. The students’ friends had access to an online answer sheet the professor posted after the exam started.

Had the answer sheet not been a fake purposely put online to catch cheaters, they might have gotten away with it. Unfortunately, catching cheaters is not always so easy, and it’s likely that 90 percent of the time, cheating goes uncaught.

Not everyone thinks bans are such good ideas. One such ban in New York City has resulted in a lawsuit. The New York Times reported in 2006 on a lawsuit filed by parents of students in New York City schools, saying their constitutional right as parents to raise their children as they see fit was being encroached upon.

But what does this mean to students on campus? Don’t we already have a policy in place to cover cell phones in class?

A quick search of the BGSU Student Handbook did not find a policy on cell phone use in class, but the general consensus among professors seems to be that the phone has to be off or silent. While this is adequate, a uniform policy across campus would be much better for both students and professors.

First, cell phones would be required to be silent or off during class. Second, using cell phones during a test or exam, except for medical emergencies, would result in a failed test the first time and a failed grade for the class a second time.

This policy would still let people text during class if they wanted to, but that’s their choice. If you want to waste your class doing that, go ahead, as long as it doesn’t bother me.

It is also better than a full cell phone ban, which could be harmful. In the case of emergencies, cell phones can save lives because they allow for an immediate response to a situation.

Adopting a uniform cell phone policy instead of a ban is the far better way to go because it’s fair to both students and instructors. Let’s hope that the University decides to address the issue in the future, before it becomes a big problem.

Send comments to Brian Szabelski at [email protected]

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