Heads up, UO professors have the authority to ban laptop use in class

Mike Harris uses his computer to take notes for History of Women in the United States, taught by Jamie Mayhew Bufalino, who allows taking notes by computer during her lectures. (Tess Freeman/Emerald)

Mike Harris uses his computer to take notes for History of Women in the United States, taught by Jamie Mayhew Bufalino, who allows taking notes by computer during her lectures. (Tess Freeman/Emerald)

Posted by Ian Campbell on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 12:07 pm.

In 1973, Ken Doxsee got ahold of his first calculator, a $150 piece of equipment that could do square roots as well as the four basic operations. His high school physics teacher banned the calculators and demanded that the class had to use slide-rules.

Being sure of his proficiency with a slide-rule, Doxsee’s instructor challenged the class to a test — the class smoked him using Doxsee’s calculator.

As technology has changed, so has the climate of banning those innovations in the classroom. Being forced to sit in the front of the room or next to the GTF is a hassle, but do professors actually hold the authority to enforce these rules?

“The short answer, is a lot. We trust our faculty with establishing a learning environment in their classroom that they feel best suits the material and the style and the content that they hope to provide to their students,” Doxsee said, who is the associate vice provost for academic affairs and a professor for the department of chemistry.

Regardless of whether a student feels that they deserve the right to use Facebook in class because they pay tuition, the professor remains in charge of his or her classroom.

“I used to get in trouble with an attorney I knew who was a libertarian, and he yelled at me for going the speed limit. He said, ‘You should be able to drive as fast as you want,’” Doxsee said. “And my response was if I was the only one here that would be fine. But when there’s a couple of us sharing space then we need some basic rules and procedures to govern how we interact with each other. And I really feel that way about the classroom.”

At the University of Oregon, there is no explicit rule regarding the usage of computers in class. Instead, faculty members are trusted to establish their own guidelines.

Other post-secondary schools have such a rule written into the institution’s policy.

The department of sociology at Texas State University states, “A student may not use an electronic device during class time without the express permission of the instructor.”

Much like the UO, Algonquin College located in Ontario, Canada, allows professors to set his or her own standards — even outlining that, “Disciplinary actions will be taken against students making unauthorized use of mobile computing devices in class.”

Doxsee agreed that it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to comply with the professor’s rules, but that professors should attempt to embrace technology.

“I would say a responsibility of a faculty member is to recognize technologies that are available and to think seriously about how they might work effectively in his or her classroom.”

Until then, if a professor tells you to move to the front of the class with your laptop, it’s time to get up.