Back Row Curmudgeon

by ursavoice

Phil Keithley Syers
J.D. Candidate 2013, UCI Law

I missed the first week of school because of an illness. So, when I arrived on week two, I stood aside and let everyone take the seats they had presumably already claimed. In most cases, I was shunted to the back of the classroom, perfectly positioned to see everyone’s laptop screens. Call me naïve, but I was blown away by what I saw.

Day in and day out, almost half the class clamors away on Facebook or Gchat for the better part of each lecture. Students do their shopping, chase scandal on Gawker, or sift through tabloid sites, like Above the Law.

Some of these sites, no doubt, can be put to educational use (save ABL). Yet I have trouble accepting that any of us are thinking of vicarious liability or promissory clauses as we trade emoticons and sift through friends’ photo albums. It is painfully obvious that most browser windows are not being put to honest use.

This is wrong on so many levels.

It is disruptive. It distracts those of us who want to actually partake in a learning experience. It is loud, both literally and figuratively. All those clattering keys practically scream that you are not paying attention, broadcasting disinterest, and a concomitant sense of entitlement.

It is counterproductive. You are taking up space at a graduate school. Please, partake. No matter how boring, how un-cool, or how rudimentary the topic may seem, we could use your input. I trust that everyone here can add to the discussion. If you are not up to it, millions of people would gladly set Facebook aside in exchange for your place in class. And when it becomes blatant, as it often does, it threatens the privilege of having a laptop in class. If we do not control our impulses, professors will notice and feel compelled to control them for us.

Most of all, it is incredibly rude, both to your neighbors and professors. It would be no worse if we all hid our hands behind our screens and flipped the professor the bird.

In conversations with some of you, it has been suggested that this is a generational thing. That it is the 21st century, and the current generation are awesome multitaskers. I’m not buying it. There is no way you are thinking of the intricate shortcomings of rape law while you peek at Lindsey Lohan’s latest mug shot. And even if you could, it doesn’t follow that you should. I cannot imagine how it’s relevant, let alone worth the opportunity to focus entirely. We have nothing but opportunities here. Let’s not idly waste them surfing the internet. TTYL.

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