Hundreds Speak Up on Proposed Wireless Ban

BY STEPHANIE BAUGHER

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Members of the faculty and administration will soon be making a decision about whether or not to implement a ban on wireless internet during class. Some students have responded with outrage, while others are excited to hear that they will no longer be distracted by other students’ instant messaging in class. This is a controversial matter, and an important one – the outcome could have a serious effect on issues like class attendance, faculty-student relations, and overall student happiness. Despite the controversy and potential impact, however, the issue has received relatively little formal attention from students.

That changed this week when the Law School Council conducted a brief survey to find out how students feel about this issue. Turnout during the first hours of the survey was overwhelming: as of Tuesday afternoon, 925 students had shared their opinions.

Of course, the decision is not the students’ to make. But there is hope that the faculty and administration will pay attention to student responses when considering the impact of the proposed ban on wireless.

The survey consisted of four questions with multiple choice answers:

1. How would a ban on wireless in the classroom affect your class attendance?

2. How would a ban on wireless in the classroom affect your level of attention?

3. If wireless were banned only by certain professors…

4. All things considered, do you support a ban on wireless in the classroom?

Students were also given an apportunity to write brief comments about the issue.

While the majority of students do not support a ban on wireless, many stated that they would pay more attention in class if they had no internet access. The results shown in this article reflect the first 925 responses to the survey, which was still running at press time. To see the final results and to read more student comments, check out the LSC website at www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/lsc.

“Any wireless ‘ban’ should be up to the individual professors. It seems absurd to create an all-out ban.”

“As graduate students, aren’t we intelligent enough to monitor our own use of the Internet in the classroom? This proposed ban is an affront to our dignity.”

“As heretical as it will sound, I think that a ban on wireless activity in classrooms is perhaps the most important thing HLS could do to improve the education of its students. It’s fun to play solitaire or read the paper or IM other students, but who are we kidding? This is HLS, and we should be in classrooms paying attention. Period.”

“Better to allow them to ban wireless than to ban laptops all together (which is where things seem to be headed these days).”

“Classes without internet access are much better because it encourages bored people at the margin to participate.”

“I don’t see a paternalism problem with these issues. We’ve chosen to enroll in school. One person is necessarily the teacher, and others are necessarily students. There’s no more paternalism in saying “no wireless/computers” than there is in saying “no spitballs.””

“Even though I generally don’t use wireless during class I really find other students’ use distracting. I wholly support the ban.”

“Yes, I’m distracted by wireless internet, but I’m an adult. If I can’t pay attention, it’s my own damn fault.”

“The whole class suffers from wireless access and the resultant inattention of the students, not just the students who are online.”

“I like the wireless because it means I don’t have to carry my FRCP, restatement, etc. I can just look at it online. I am a small person and books are heavy!”

“I think the wireless ban sends an inappropriate message from the faculty to the students. This is a community of adults engaged in a collective learning endeavor. I am always disappointed in the lack of maturity exhibited by professors who impose bathroom-use rules or similarly idiotic classroom restrictions. I’d put this ban in that category.”

“A ban on internet seems like a crutch for teachers who are unable to keep their class interested and engaged in the class discussion.”

“If the decision is made to ban wireless, students who actually attend class will be at a disadvantage because so many events on campus and office hours are filled “first come, first serve” via email or online signup.”

“International students sometimes have to rely on the use of online dictionaries to follow the discussion in class!”

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