This is the routine in nursing major Shanneah Manchur’s English class: As students walk into the classroom, they take out their phones, turn them off and line them up on the lip of the dry erase board.
If a phone goes off? Their professor will place it on his desk and at the end of class assign the phone’s owner a paper.
Syllabi often include certain things such as a statement about the university’s plagiarism policy, a breakdown of the course grades, explanations of how things are graded and the numerical equivalents for letter grades. Rules about attendance, late work and technology are expected, but some students say a few professors have rules that are more unique that others.
Senior biology major Katie Moreland said she had a class where halfway through the semester the professor decided that students were not allowed to use laptops, and if she saw students on their laptop or phone, she would confiscate it immediately, no exceptions. The problem? Moreland said students were expected to look at the slides during class, and the slides were only uploaded five minutes before class.
“It’s one thing to take off points, but I think confiscation was a step too far,” said Steven Shelly, a senior biology major who also had a teacher decide in the middle of the semester that they would confiscate any technology if they saw it in class, despite students needing it to complete in-class group projects.
Yet, the more boundaries other rules seemed to cross or the stranger they got; the less upset students seemed about them. Take Ally Fress, a psychology major, whose professor asked for a Federal ID just to take a test.
Fress said that despite the class’s shock, no one questioned their professor about the rule, with which she complied.
“It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t make me angry,” said Manchur about lining her phone up at the front of her class. “I just make sure my phone off, so I don’t have to write a paper.”
Students say a big reason for this indifference is because unlike confiscated laptops, these rules, while intrusive, do not affect the way the students would otherwise experience class. They say no one takes notes on a cell phone and handing in an ID does not affect test taking all that much.
Students say another reason might be that there is no way for students to get around these rules. Moreland said that students in her class had tried to fight the rule, but none ever succeeded.
If a professor has no way to prove the rule was ever broken, then students say they tend to act as though the rule never existed.
“I don’t think anyone ever got exposed,” said sophomore honors student Molly D’Innicenzo on how students in her first-year honors Seminar (FYHS) would take an Uber to a field trip despite their teacher threating to take off points for doing so. “She would get there after us, and we would just say, ‘I walked’ or ‘I took the bus,’” she said.
Even as they scrutinized the rule, students often tried to justify why the professor had made the rule as they criticized it.
“I think it was a helpful rule because it did make us kind of have to explore other options,” said D’Innicenzo. “But also, we were freshmen. Not a lot us had cars and knew how to use the bus, so it just seemed bizarre at the time.”
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