Student Voice


June 20, 2024

Technological conveniences trump respect

April 12, 2007

(This is the third installment in a six-part series. Next week look for a story about respect between faculty and students from the students’ perspective.)

In a classroom setting, it is not unusual for professors to expect their students be respectful, not only to them, but to others in the class as well.

However, that expectation is not always a given, especially in this day and age when technology has become a distraction both in and out of the classroom.

“The culture of the classroom reflects the culture of society,” said Brad Caskey, psychology professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The culture of today’s society revolves around cell phones, iPods and the Internet, all of which have been making their way into schools and universities in particular.

Caskey said the kind of behavior witnessed in classrooms is better tolerated in college settings than in the workforce.

“Students don’t realize that it comes off as inappropriate,” he said.

One thing Caskey notices as a popular trend is sending and receiving text messages.

“Students don’t believe you’re actually looking at them,” he said.

He said what bothers him are those students who don’t hide the fact that they’re texting.

“That’s just rude,” Caskey said. “If you’re going to do it, just pretend you’re trying to hide it.”

Caskey also said it’s hard to believe that once class is excused and students reach in their pockets for their phones that they hadn’t been sending or receiving messages the entire class period.

“As soon as class ends, the cell phones come out and messages start flying,” he said.

Though professors may stipulate in their syllabi that cell phones are not permitted in class or are to be turned off, there are occasions when someone may forget and leave one on.

“If they have one go off while giving a speech, it will lower their grade,” speech professor Pat Hanson said.

Hanson said while she hasn’t noticed text messaging, she has seen students with iPod ear buds in and asks to remove them.

Caskey said there has been an increase in students’ use of their iPods to cheat on tests. He also said it’s easy for students to send text messages to others, especially on multiple-choice exams.

Aside from technology, students talking amongst themselves while a lecture are regarded as being disrespectful.

Hanson said when she observes this type of behavior from students, she usually lets it go the first time, but if the problem becomes chronic and warnings are not heeded, she may take action.

“If they’re acting like high schoolers, I may ask them to switch seats,” she said.

Caskey also said students who talk out loud to one another are disruptive.

“What they’re doing is distracting to other students,” he said. “ ... Some people are more sensitive to distraction.

One reason Caskey said it is a problem is because he doesn’t want to take away from students who are paying to be in the classroom to get an education. Students should be paying more attention to the material being presented, especially while the professor is lecturing.

“I don’t like distractions that disrupt class,” Caskey said. “I should be more important than anything else; the focus should be on me.”

The late arrival and early departure of students from class can take the focus off the professor.

Hanson said she frowns upon tardiness, but has no policy regarding discipline.

Caskey said his only policy is that students not run him over on the way to their seats on the way in or to the door on the way out. He does inquire as to the reasons behind tardiness, especially if a particular student is habitually late, which is disrespectful.

Some professors take the aspect of habitual tardiness into account when it comes to final grades.

Professor Roark Atkinson’s syllabus for Introduction to Latin America (History 202) states “students who come to class late on a regular basis will receive a lower grade in the course.”

An aspect of classroom respect also includes the way in which students address their professors. Some professors forgo the formalities and allow their students to call them by their first names, while others prefer their students use a proper title.

“I let them know how I like to be addressed at the beginning of the semester,” said Hanson, who prefers her students call her Mrs. Hanson or Professor Hanson.

Caskey said although some professors may be comfortable being on a first-name basis with their students, he prefers his students use a title when addressing him.

“I am more comfortable not having students call me by my first name,” he said.

When he was in college, Caskey said most faculty went by “Mr.” or “Dr.” and often made their colleagues address them in such a manner.

“I was never on a first-name basis with my professors,” Hanson said of her college experience.

Hanson said that aside from the antics that may occur in the classroom, all students are not bad. She reminisced about a time when she had fallen outside and the outpouring of concern she received.

“Respect is shown in a variety of ways,” she said. “ ... I think there’s a sweetness about a lot of students that endears me to them.”