Rethink proposed cell ban

There is no excuse for the blatant cell phone use that has run rampant in classrooms and in the hallways since ownership of Blackberries and iPhones mushroomed: it’s obnoxious, rude and immature. However, although it’s not entirely undeserved, banning cell phone use on campus during school hours is too harsh a measure. While we urge students to please turn their cell phones off during class, we also urge Huybrechts not to sign the proposal.

Maybe this concept doesn’t bridge the generation gap, but it is an unavoidable fact that cell phones are a necessary cog in the machine of a student’s daily life. Coordinating carpools, planning on-campus Coffee Bean, being alerted of an after-school dentist appointment, relaying the yearbook and Chronicle cameras from event to event – without cell phones, these simple (and yes, harmless) activities would suddenly require extensive planning and a lot of running up and down the stairs. Parents want their students to have their cell phones on them in case of a real emergency. We realize there are other phones on campus available for students to use in an emergency, but opening that can of worms will make things inconvenient for everyone involved.

There are the few students in every class whose legs are aglow beneath their desks as they covertly try to muffle the sounds of BBM. But it’s important to remember that the wide majority of students follow the rules, and it’s unfair to return all of the upper school students to a middle school standard because a few have decided to flout the rules.

Secondary motives behind the ban included eliminating what some teachers see as rudeness when students drift down the hallways, momentarily unengaged because they are texting. It is important to note that the perpetrators themselves probably have no idea they are being rude. To this generation, texting is as natural as chatting with a friend before class. And if a student is sitting at a table in the quad, and happens to pull out their phone, we have to ask – who is that really harming?

Some teachers also fear that allowing cell phones on campus fosters cheating. This could be true – but talking and going to the bathroom could also foster cheating. It is impossible to bring every element of student life under the watchful eyes of teachers, which is why we have the Honor Code; creating more rules to prevent cheating only undermines it.

This proposal has the potential to be like the next Prohibition – attempting to go against the grain of dependence on cell phones will only result in a lot of contraband activity. If the teachers find it difficult to enforce the current rule, which also happens to be much more reasonable in principle, there is no reason to believe it will be easier to enforce an all-out ban. The faculty should return to the old rule with new gusto – if a teacher simply speaks up and asks a student to turn off their cell phone in class, very few students would refuse them. And the ones that would certainly wouldn’t leave their cell phones out of the classroom on account of the new rule.