Your cell phone, or “forbidden nuisance” as he describes it in the syllabus, rings.McEnerny sprints to you, grabs the phone and answers it.
“Who the hell is this?”
“This is your friend’s professor.”
You start to sweat a little while McEnerny continues to talk on your phone.
“Do you have any embarrassing stories I could share with the class?
“I understand, what a good friend. I’ll just confiscate it instead,” he tells the voice on the other end.
College students seem more than willing to go without eating, without text books and without homework to class – but they aren’t willing to go without that vital college tool — the cell phone (even if the syllabus does forbid it).
First signs of addiction
With nearly 85 percent of college students owning one, according to Alloy Media Marketing, it’s no question that our generation will be known for having a cell phone attached to our hand. Whether they are texting, calling, taking a picture or video, or just opening and closing it to check the time – cell phones are considered by many students as their most important tool.
Teachers like McEnerny, however, have had about enough.
Why this obsession with cell phones, they wonder?
Despite the fact it’s called a phone, it actually accomplishes much more than that. Students use their phone as a social tool. Students call their friends around campus, they text their friends around the country, they may even send picture messages to their parents. Whatever the use is, to students it’s a necessity.
“It started off as a security reason, in case I had car trouble or something happened, they’re good to have,” Kristina Curtis, a sophomore at Castleton State College explains as she waves her Samsung phone around. “Now, I need it. I feel disoriented if I don’t have it.”
English Professor Candy Fox tells a story that drives home just how important these cell phones are to students these days.
“Every year I give out an assignment and I ask for the students to describe an object in their lives that means the most to them. Usually I expect a car, skis, maybe a necklace.”
She shakes her head and organizes her papers on her desk, “and every year I get someone who talks about their cell phone. One student of mine said he wouldn’t know what he would have done without it. I just froze.”
Confusion filled Fox’s face as she explained her discomfort. As a professor, it was obvious she didn’t understand the importance of a cell phone to her students.
“It’s just a phone,” she exclaims.
Just a phone, indeed. But not to the 85 percent of students who care for one everyday.
According to the Alloy College Explorer Study, of those 85 percent of students who own a cell phone, three-quarters send and receive text messages. Sixty percent can access the Internet through their phone, and 36 percent can take, send and receive picture messages.
Personalization rates are high too, with 50 percent of students who own a cell phone reporting they’ve downloaded ring tones.
“When my best friends call, ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ plays. When my boyfriend calls ‘The Way I Are’ by Timberland plays, and when someone I don’t really care to talk to calls, it’s just a regular ring I guess,” Nathalia Lasiy, a junior at CSC explains as she holds her silver razor in a firm grip. “It’s fun making your phone personal.”
This is not just a tool, it’s a statement.
But during class, when the “Back in Black” cell phone ring is turned off in an effort to not drive your professors mad, you can still hear the distant roar of vibrations.
In fact, most college students will never turn off their cell phone or put it on silent. The vibration of the phone keeps them in contact with the outside world by immediately notifying them with a vibration. And of course, they answer.
They hide their pink razors, or black chocolate phones under the desk, at their side, and the most talented of students can respond to text messages without looking.
“I can keep my cell phone on my lap, and keep eye contact with the teacher and have a conversation with my friend about plans for later,” Junior, Emma Harvey admits. “I know how many clicks it is for each letter and usually get the message across. And my friends know if they receive one a little jumbled, it’s because I’m hiding it in class.”
Junior, Sam Ducharme is also a skilled texter.
“I text in class when I have to. I know how to do it so the teacher doesn’t see it, but I don’t go to class planning on texting, it just happens,” he said.
As he talks, his phone violently vibrates from a text message received.
“Sometimes it’s just things like ‘where are you’ or ‘are you going to lunch,’ so I answer, no big deal,” he said.
Respecting the phone
“I had no idea how I was going to tell my mother that I actually managed to flush my cell phone down the toilet,” said Katelyn Greene, a women’s hockey player at CSC.
Greene laughs as she tells of the death of her latest, and fourth, cell phone.
“It was all because I was late for class, and I really had to go pee. So I went quickly and as I was flushing, I just heard it drop. I watched it go down, and could do nothing but scream ‘why?'” she said, her voice rising.
She throws her arms up in a fury, re-enacting the events, but laughs out loud while doing so. Her light laugh comes to an end as her face straightens to a concerned look and she mumbles, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore, I liked that phone.”
The most ironic aspect of college students and their addiction is their lack of care for the electronic gadgets that come in all shapes and sizes. Cell phones have been around long enough that most students have gone through a few of them for numerous reasons, some stupidity and others mechanical.
An employee from Verizon Wireless witnesses countless cell phone problems during a day at work.
“The two groups of people who come in with broken cell phones are either college students or construction workers; it’s half and half,” she said sitting behind the large Verizon Wireless desk.
“The major problem students seem to have with their cell phone is liquidation issues. They drop it in the toilet, or get pushed in a pool with it in their pocket. But they also don’t realize that talking on your phone in the rain, or having it in the bathroom while you take a shower, does the same trick.”
She pulls out a cell phone someone had left with her earlier that day. It was an old, black Razor phone that had scratches and cracks all over it. It was clearly a college student’s, with stickers plastering the back. She opens it, and the screen falls off. She looks down at it, and shrugs.
“I try to stress to students to get the insurance on it. Lots of people do more so now because they have lost a phone or two and know the stupid things that can happen. You really don’t want to have to pay full market price for another phone.”
On the other end of the phone line
The latest Soundings speaker talks away at the podium and you listen attentively.
To your left, to your right and in front of you, you’re distracted by blue glowing lights, bowed heads and furious fingers.
“When you are sitting there in a dark hall, and all you see it blue lights, it’s unbelievably distracting. The time that is put into the craft that is being presented on stage for the audience, and the disrespectfulness of opening your cell and texting away – is marginalizing the work they are doing,” Professor Harry McEnery vents.
“It’s funny when I take a students cell phone away, because they think I’m kidding. They come to my office later and give me excuses as to why they need it so badly”
McEnery jokes as he sits at his desk in his small office in the basement of the Fine Arts Center. He scratches his head and gives a little smirk, “they even need it to tell people that they don’t have it.”
He pulls out a large folder and takes out a piece of paper.
“This is my syllabus, and I clearly state to turn off cell phones during class, with the punishments that will occur. I even say thank you for understanding at the end of it, and yet they can’t do it,” he said.
When students are required to go to soundings events and class, they say texting eases the pain of being somewhere the student has no desire to be.
It appears that 95 percent of the 16 to 24-year-olds who own cell phones are texting regularly – sending 100 text messages per month, according to TranSend ED Statistics. The total text revenue in 2006, was $4.3 billion dollars, the study shows.
“I suggest two things for students when coming to class or attending a show of some sort, leave the cell phone at home and respect, or just don’t come,” McEnerny said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to it, it wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t have one, I don’t think,” Greene explains after detailing the lives of all four cell phones she has owned.
Others aren’t so sure.
“I need to have it on me and don’t like it when I leave it somewhere, but I wouldn’t say I’m addicted,” Curtis said as she checks her pants pockets to see where she placed her cell phone.
The question of addiction is certainly dependent on the cell phone owner. Yet from the other side of the spectrum, it seems to the adults that there is a definite problem.
“I prefer conversion face to face and that is not why I dislike cell phones. I see the student’s behavior with them and I find it quite sad. To me, cell phones are the devil,” McEnerny said.