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Classroom cell phone use will ring in suspension

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Priscilla Jebaraj

Anna University to crack down on rule violators

CHENNAI: Engineering college students surreptitiously messaging their friends or playing the latest mobile game as their lecturers drone on could soon find themselves thrown out of college for a week.

Tired of students flouting its ban on cell phone usage in the classroom, Anna University, Chennai will slap suspensions on defaulters from next semester.

Sudden checks will be undertaken by authorities to enforce the rule, says Vice-Chancellor P. Mannar Jawahar. All cell phones in a class will be collected and the usage record checked to see the last time the phone was used. A circular will also be sent to all affiliated colleges about the new rule, he said.

This is a change in strategy in the university’s war against cell phone misuse. In September 2005, then Vice-Chancellor D. Viswanathan had completely banned phones from the university campus and those of affiliated colleges, provoking strong reactions from the student community. When he took charge in June 2008, one of Dr. Jawahar’s first moves had been to relax the ban, allowing the phones to be brought on to campus, while stipulating that they were to be switched off during working hours.

“We don’t want to be too strict in the use of technology, but there is a limit that they should not cross. They should not take advantage of leniency,” says Dr. Jawahar.

So far, the penalty for breaking the rules was a Rs.10,000 fine, with at least 28 students fined over the last semester. However, the Vice-Chancellor says that this punished parents more than students. “Parents are the ones who were suffering. They would come and plead we would reduce the fine to Rs.2,000 or less,” he says. However, students say that the full fine was charged from some defaulters.

The Vice-Chancellor hopes the new punishment will be more effective.

“The fear of suspension should make them take it seriously,” he says. Since students will be marked absent during their suspension, their attendance record and eligibility to write semester examinations could be affected. Their career prospects could also be endangered by the black mark.

One Anna University student said: “It seems rather harsh. One case of suspension for a minor issue like this and it will affect a student’s entire life. When it shows up on your record, it will degrade your chance for placement. Employers will not bother to look at the reason for the suspension.”

However, other students say that a ban is important and needs to be enforced more effectively.

“It can be very distracting when other students are playing with their mobiles during class. It also tempts you to start doing the same,” says a third year student. He is not sure if the suspensions will be any more effective than the fine, however.

Teachers hope the new rule will bring some discipline back into the classroom.

“The class strength is so high, it is impossible for a teacher to monitor what is going on in all parts of the classroom,” said one university professor.

“The new rule will stop them because of fear. Hopefully, it will become habit after that.”

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