Learn now, talk later

It’s happened to just about everyone. You’re in a quiet place and your cell phone rings. The sound is so disruptive that everyone turns to stare.

Embarrassment isn’t the only thing VCU students face if their cell phone rings during class.

Roderick J. McDavis, provost and vice president for academic affairs, recently sent an e-mail to professors and administrators reminding them of the repercussions a student could face if his or her cell phone interrupts a class.

According to the student handbook, possible consequences for disrupting class (including repeatedly leaving your phone on during class) include a discussion with the professor, a consultation with the department chairperson or other resource personnel and a written warning. If the professor deems the disruption extreme, he or she may ask the student to leave the class for the remainder of the period or recess the class and contact the University Counseling Services or VCU Police for assistance.

If the professor’s observations indicate the disruptive behavior might be related to a disability, the faculty member has the option to call the coordinator for services for students with disabilities or refer the student to University Counseling Services and/or the academic success center.

The handbook’s wording is clear, said Henry G. Rhone, vice provost for student affairs.

“It lays out…everything that could happen to a student,” he said.

Brandon Anderson, a freshman information systems major, said he thinks the student conduct policy might be too harsh.

“I don’t think (the disruptor) should be dealt with that severely,” he said.

His human sexuality professor is taking a different approach to cell phones in classrooms. Anderson said the professor told her students she would give them two extra points on a test if her cell phone ever rang during class.

Brian Williams, a senior political science major, said he has no problem with the policy as long as professors are only reporting those whose phones repeatedly ring during class. He said he thinks everyone forgets to turn his or her phone off every now and then, including him. His phone, however, has only rang once in class in the three years that he’s had it. Luckily, Williams was able to turn it off quickly while his teacher and classmates chuckled.

The policies section in the handbook also details other forms of distraction in a university setting, including “loud or prolonged side conversations; exaggerated movement of papers, books or other materials; excessive displays of affection; disruptions in online conversations; and unnecessary or repetitive questions or comments which seek to delay the normal instructional process.”

In order for students to have a comfortable environment conducive to learning, it needs to be free from all distractions, including cell phones, McDavis said.

“If you’re in class you’re there to learn, not talk on the phone,” he said, adding that students have plenty of time to talk on their phones when they are not in class. “The policy is the policy.”

In light of the options in the handbook, special arrangements can be made with individual professors if a student has special circumstances, such as a sick child at home.

“I don’t think (the policy) is intended to keep people from emergencies,” Rhone said. “It’s intended to ask people to keep disruptions (down).”

Rhone suggested that students use the vibrate feature on their cell phones when expecting a call during class time.

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