Use of Mobile Phones on a College Campus

By Ashley Brooks

Mobile or cell phones are all the rage on most college campuses. Because cell phone technology has now gone beyond placing a simple call, college students, instructors and staff can use their phones to keep up with assignments and class schedules, communicate with friends and colleagues, and become aware of campus alerts and warnings. But while there are many benefits of using a cell phone on a college campus, the disruptive nature of a cell phone can make using the device somewhat difficult.

Campus Communications

The need for instantaneous communication between students and administration is such a necessity that USA Today reported that Morrisville State College in New York distributed cell phones to students and added the monthly bill to their standard school fees. Because newer cell phones and smart phones include email access, students can use their cell phones to check their campus email accounts. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) like the BlackBerry feature web browsing, which enables students (especially those taking courses online) to access their course materials from almost anywhere. Phone calls, text messaging and instant messaging are heavily used on college campuses where students are expected to not only keep up with their friends and classmates but with their studies as well. As stated in the article "The Age of the Smart Cell Phone," numerous college campuses across the United States are utilizing cell phones and smart phones to send important messages to students regarding registration, financial aid and assignments.

Cheating and Other Concerns

Because of their portability and instant connectivity, many schools are also struggling to deal with increases in cheating that cell phones allow. For example, according to the article "Gadgets Rule on College Campuses," twelve University of Maryland business students were caught using their cell phones to cheat during a final exam in 2003. Another problem that instructors and students face is the disruptive nature of mobile phones in the classroom. Many classrooms have a "silent" or "vibrate" policy for cell phones during lecture or lab time, but students can undermine that rule by silently sending text or instant messages during class. "Gadgets Rule on College Campuses" also reports that many are concerned with the inflating costs of keeping college campuses so tech-savvy, as much of the costs for the installation and maintenance of wireless networks for computers and cell phones are added to student's fees.

Campus Safety

After the incidences of campus violence at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, instant campus-wide communication became a necessity. Many campuses now have students, faculty and staff register for safety-related communications through their cell phones. The company Rave Wireless offers two distinct safety features that work with a cell phone or other wireless device. Once registered, if a student is in danger he can call the campus police, who will immediately receive the student's whereabouts, identification and other information needed to assist them. If there is an incident with the potential of being a campus-wide threat, safety officials can issue an alert to all registered users to either evacuate an area or seek shelter elsewhere. These alerts can come in the form of a automated phone call, a text message or an email (if applicable to the user's phone).