Cell phones in the classroom: good vibrations

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Louis Hannegan
Commentary Editor

“Welcome to Aristotle’s ‘Politics,’ everyone! As you will read in the syllabus, cell phones should be turned off before comin–” But then, “All my ladies make it shake shake, make it hop, it ain’t too late to make the earth quake,” raps a cell phone as its abashed owner frantically fumbles through her purse.

Or better yet: “For on the night he was betrayed he himself took bread, and–” “Da-da-daa-da-da-daa-da-da-daaa!” a cell phone chimes out, its owner quickly wedging his hand into his pocket, regretting that he wore skinny jeans that day.

Sound familiar? Perhaps a little too familiar?

In both incidents, the noise produced performs its precise function: getting one’s attention. The only problem is that it happens to do so at a moment so inopportune as to be humorous – Dr. Dougherty’s class in the first case, the Institution Narrative of the Third Eucharistic Prayer in the second. Both are important occasions for University of Dallas students and would seem to deserve the silent respect of the cell phones in attendance.

This issue, however, is not nearly so one-sided. There are many compelling reasons for leaving one’s creative ring tone on full volume, reasons that deserve consideration in any serious discussion of cell-phone etiquette.

First, keeping the volume all the way up is essential for staying up-to-date with friends. If someone keeps his phone on vibrate, it is possible he will not be aware of that call or text until after Mass or class, which could be up to 80 minutes after the fact. Such a long delay can greatly hamper one’s social life, especially when a friend is texting about the latest “meme” she read or the look that some guy gave her.

Moreover, since both class and Mass are very noisy occasions in which phones ring regularly, it is important that any ring tone be both loud and unique. Otherwise, the owner might not be able to hear his phone ringing or to distinguish his from all the others that are going off.

Second, leaving the volume on is a selfless effort to spice up the treatises of Aristotle and other smart dead guys. These unexpected musical outbursts from pockets and purses create memorable moments with the priceless reactions they produce in both students and professors. The most composed girl, the most confident guy – each flies into a frantic flurry of digging, wedging and grasping for that little black box that they intentionally turned on precisely so that it would make that noise. It is a planned yet impromptu seven-second drama, complete with music and spectators.

The professors’ faces are equally humorous. Usually they show not anger or frustration but confusion and perplexity. They know that a cell phone must be the source of the noise, since they have heard of these new devices – but they seem confused that a phone call would turn on the radio.

For the lucky few, a cell phone ring can even set a ponderous professor in motion. Last semester, Dr. Jodziewicz danced a jig to a Super Mario Brothers-like ring tone. Who knows what kinds of moves he would lay down if someone busted out some Labrinth. It may be worth a try.

With these reasons, proponents of ring tones present a compelling case for their musical pockets and purses, proving that this issue is anything but one-sided. Instead, the argument seems evenly split – keeping up with friends, impromptu mini-dramas, and Jodz dance-routines versus respectful silence in Mass and class.

It is a tough call, but my gut tells me that the tie should probably go to the latter over the former. Lectures will not be as entertaining, our social lives not nearly as vibrant – but Mass and class, two rather important occasions for UD students, will go undisturbed. So hush those little devices, and just let them vibrate for an hour.

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