internet ban classroom University of Chicago Law School AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgWe reported yesterday about the University of Chicago Law School cutting off access to ATL internet in the classroom. A University of Chicago student sent along the e-mail from Dean Saul Levmore explaining the anti-internet policy, and said that we “should absolutely post the full text of Levmore’s asinine email.”
Check it out in its entirety after the jump. Here’s an excerpt:

Few things should be as important to our community as regaining and establishing our common sense that the classroom should be a place for learning and interaction. Visitors to classes, as well as many of our students, report that the rate of distracting Internet usage during class is astounding.

Remarkably, usage appears to be contagious, if not epidemic. Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes, and within twenty minutes an entire row is shoe shopping. Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated. I confess that as I have researched this subject, I have been made aware how offensive it often is when phone calls are taken in public and when Blackberry and other e-mail devices are consulted during meetings. I have promised myself that I will no longer check my Blackberry under the table at University meetings.

So tempted to shoe shop… Must finish blog post… We wonder how long Dean Levmore will keep his Blackberry promise. It reminds us of the Seinfeld “master of my domain” episode. How long can he hold out? Anyone want to make a wager? What’s the over / under?
(Poor Dean Levmore, by the way, is also taking flak for Chicago’s drop — just from #6 to #7, but some commenters are apoplectic — in the latest U.S. News law school rankings.)
Results of our poll, plus selected reader comments and the full text of Dean Levmore’s message, after the jump.


The majority of ATL readers are proponents of internet access in the classroom, though a sizable third are opposed. It also appears that most of our voting readers are East Coasters:
small_map.jpg
Here are some of the comments on our earlier post from the proponents:

The internet is great, and law school class is pointless anyway – I spend 75% of the time in class on ATL, facebook, and ESPN.com. It’s nice to have a distraction from hearing profs ramble on and on about shit we know isn’t going to be on our test. And no, I’m not an idiot – top 5% of class.
Posted by: 2L | March 25, 2008 01:35 PM
Take away the internet and you’ll just have more people sleeping in class. Personally, I find people snoring more distracting that people on the internet – especially since most of surfing the web can be done via links and favorites and very little typing.
Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 01:40 PM
i am in M&A class right now bored out of my mind listening to the rambling of an 80 year old man who does not care to keep class interesting or use any class participation. if schools dont want the internet to be a distraction, hire better professors or force the professors to be more interesting. they should earn their money.
Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 02:02 PM

And from those opposed to internet in the classroom:

chicago is a very serious law school. we all work very hard and we don’t have to appease the slacker students out there. i applaud the decision of the school to pull the plug on in-class wireless access.
Posted by: chicago2L | March 25, 2008 01:41 PM
it’s tough to concentrate when some douchebag in front of you is browsing Perez Hilton’s bright pink site with pictures of your favorite celeb with a big hand-drawn dildo promiscuously drawn on. no internet access in classrooms (but keep it in common areas) would be v welcome, improve the quality of discussion, and make students focus on lectures
Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 01:47 PM
I’m all for this. For the people who actually want to pay attention in class, there is nothing more distracting than the people on all sides of you playing on Facebook and IMing. It’s like having a television screen on right in front of you.
And for those of you that do goof off, you should know that the pen and paper people do read what is on your screen. So stop lingerie shopping for your girlfriend, because while you might think Evidence is boring, the rest of us really don’t want to think about your sex life.
Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 02:11 PM

And thank you for this unrelated comment:

Kash is a super-cutie. More pix, please.
Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2008 04:08 PM

Earlier: Hey Teacher, Leave Those Kids (and Their Internet) Alone! and Laptops vs. Learning — Once More, With Feeling
Saul Levmore Dean Saul Levmore Above the Law blog.jpgUNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL — EMAIL FROM DEAN SAUL LEVMORE RE: INTERNET ACCESS IN CLASSROOMS
Dear Students and Faculty Colleagues,
I write to announce and explain a new Law School policy. It is presently experimental, and will make its way into our Handbook after some experience and opportunity for feedback. I am tempted to begin with news aimed at those of you who miss the Law School while on Spring Break. We have, after all, hired some terrific new faculty, and the crews are busy in our front yard. But I do not wish to avoid my subject, which is Internet usage in our classrooms.
A great many conversations and classroom visits have generated the perception, and I think reality, that we have a growing problem in the form of the distractions presented by Internet surfing in the classroom. You know better than I that for many students class has come to consist of some listening but also plenty of e-mailing, shopping, news browsing, and gossip-site visiting. Many students say that the visual images on classmates’ screens are diverting, and they too eventually go off track and check e-mail, sometimes to return to the class discussion and sometimes barely so. Our faculty (and I, as well as many of your classmates with whom I have spoken) believe strongly that we need to do everything we can to make Chicago’s classroom experiences all they can be. I therefore ask, respectfully but emphatically, that you use computers in class only for class-related purposes. Games and Internet usage in class should be like cell-phone usage or the ostentatious reading of newspapers – inappropriate, a breach of etiquette, and an insult to teacher, classmate, and self.
If it had proved impossible to turn off Internet access in our classrooms, I was prepared to write this letter to you and assert our new classroom norm. (This is a step that some law schools have taken, though I do not know enough about enforcement or effectiveness.) In our case, the wireless and wired connections in our classroom wing can, and have been, disabled. The shutdown will be imperfect. There will be leakage; some computers are radio-cellular enabled; and in one classroom we will leave the wired connections alive to facilitate occasional computer training. But it should now be considered a breach of our norms to plug in, or to use available wireless, during class time. Some law schools or professors have banned computers from class. A school-wide ban strikes me as a last resort because many students convincingly assert that their educational experiences are enhanced by note-taking on their computers. Other schools have invested in software that disables one’s ability to log in when that person has a scheduled class. I like to think that such steps will be unnecessary here. If we are serious about our classrooms as places where we try to teach and learn, and if we take our professional responsibilities seriously, then surely we know that class time is not for shopping and e-mailing.
There will be modest costs. On occasion it is nice to download from Chalk or other sites to get class or case materials. These will need to be accessed before class. We will also be unable to e-mail completed exams and course evaluations from the classrooms. I hope that something resembling on-off switches can be developed before we get to the end of the quarter but, if not, we will simply need to adjust. At quarter’s end, we will reassess the technology as well as our experiences, and we will survey faculty and students before deciding on a policy for the next academic year.
Few things should be as important to our community as regaining and establishing our common sense that the classroom should be a place for learning and interaction. Visitors to classes, as well as many of our students, report that the rate of distracting Internet usage during class is astounding. Remarkably, usage appears to be contagious, if not epidemic. Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes, and within twenty minutes an entire row is shoe shopping. Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated. I confess that as I have researched this subject, I have been made aware how offensive it often is when phone calls are taken in public and when Blackberry and other e-mail devices are consulted during meetings. I have promised myself that I will no longer check my Blackberry under the table at University meetings. Opportunities for human interaction and for classroom learning will soon become rarer in your lives, and I hope that you too can make the most of the opportunities that you have here.
Thank you,
Saul Levmore


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