As students in professor Ivy Kennelly’s Sociology of Sex and Gender discussed the latest episode of “Friends,” the familiar musical notes of a cell phone rang out from the bottom of a student’s book bag. The room suddenly filled with quick glances and disclaimers of “It’s not mine.”
As the owner rummaged through her bag looking for the phone, Kennelly took the opportunity to address her low tolerance for cell phones that disrupt her class.
“I’m just going to tell you, and this doesn’t count,” Kennelly said, “but every time I hear a cell phone and I find out whose it is, it is one point off your final grade.”
Outside of class Kennely admitted that she sometimes forgets to turn off her cell phone, too, “but they are annoying and they disrupt class,” she said.
While Kennelly’s policy on cell phones is one of the stricter ones on campus, the issue of cell phones is quickly growing from a nuisance that disrupts class to a full-blown problem that many professors and students are being forced to deal with daily.
“I do not have a policy against cell phones in my syllabus because I consider it basic considerate behavior,” statistics professor Efstathia Bura explained. She also admitted that phones are going off more frequently in her classes and that cell phone use among students has increased dramatically in the last year and a half.
Cell phone use has become so pervasive on campus that posters listing classroom courtesies remind students to first turn off cell phones.
Gelman Library officials said students are allowed to use cell phones in the lobby areas.
“We allow cell phones in the library, but just not in the regular reading rooms,” said Natasha Capellas, a library assistant. “As long as they don’t disturb others, you can use them in the hallways or lobby.”
Capellas said the library receives a small number of noise complaints.
“Basically it’s just common sense. If people are being loud, then (students) will come down and tell us,” she said.
Sophomore Angela Venturiello, who frequently studies in the library, said she generally does not have a problem with people who use their cell phones in the library as long as they are in the lobby or hallway.
“I do, however, have a problem when you have the phone on any ring mode which easily distracts me and others,” she said. She also said that even when cell phone users were in the hallways she could sometimes still here them. “It’s a little distracting, but I learn to block it out.”
First-year graduate student Meighan O’Reardon said she also is annoyed with cell phone users that are disrespectful but pointed out that the whole world is dealing with the same issues.
“It happens in business all the time,” she said, noting that she works for an accounting firm. “We will be in a meeting and someone’s cell phone will go off, and we all get distracted.”
The trend has even got to the highest stages of government, causing President George W. Bush to pause a press conference last April when he was interrupted by reporters’ cell phones going off multiple times.
Cornell University sophomore Carlos Rossy said cell phones are a mainstay on most college campuses. He estimated that about half of Cornell students use cell phones, a figure that parallels a recent Arizona State University survey which found that a more than half of college students own cellular phones.
The Arizona State study also pointed out that cell phones appear to be a lifestyle priority to the majority of those who own cell phones.
“Twenty years ago we didn’t have cell phones, and now what would we do without them?” GW sophomore Jenelle Carrillo said. “I’m very dependent on mine, and it’s frustrating because I don’t know what I would do with out it.”
Sophomore Kim Kass said she is also amazed at the number of cell phones on campus.
“It’s fascinating how the trend at a typical Long Island high school was to have a pager so parents could contact their kids,'” she said. “Now it seems everyone has a cell phone, and those who don’t often feel left out, or they hang around enough friends who have cell phones so they never miss a call.”
“Cell phones are so common at GW that some students don’t even know their personal security codes for their campus lines,” Kass said.
Students said keeping in touch with friends, better long distance service and peer pressure are the main causes for the cell phone “culture.”
“I got my cell phone last semester, post-September 11, mostly because long distance rates are a lot cheaper and my parents wanted to talk to me more,” junior Allison Stein said. “And it is actually cheaper than the phone cards I was using.”
Stein said there are drawbacks to owning a cell phone.
“I like being able to disappear, and I figure I’m only 20 and I’m not that important and nobody needs to get in touch with me that quickly,” she said.
Abdi Mohammed, a sales representative at Radio Shack, said students want phones because they have become “the in thing” for students.
“I see students come back every three or four months looking for a new model of a phone or for accessories, and that is probably because it is a status symbol,” he said. He also noted that lower prices and better long distance plans have led to increased sales.
Stein said cell phones give students better long distance plans than campus AT&T rates but students also have other motives.
“We’ve got a lot of kids here with a lot of money, and they are going to want one whether they need it or not,” Stein concluded.