Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Laura Madtes
Following the success of Prof. Donna Freitas' "Life Unplugged" experiment last semester, Adelphi University has announced a campus-wide phone ban for the week of April 1. As of today, all students and faculty are required to turn in their cellphones to the Department of Public Safety and Transportation. Anyone who fails to relinquish their phones will be penalized. Students who object can blame the success of the fall experiment and the widespread media attention it attained as not only “Newsday,” but also two TV stations covered the students as they made it through a week without their cell phones.
Last semester, Freitas taught a first-year seminar course titled “Life Unplugged," which was designed to help students examine and evaluate their current relationship with technology and social media. (Read more about this in the current issue of The Delphian.) As outlined in the course syllabus, the students would try to understand how social media and technology affect their behavior and actions towards others. The coursework was also designed to have them think critically about how cellphones affect their ability to focus, how to create more meaningful connections with other people, and how they can create healthier relationships with their cell phones.
From November 7 to 14, the students, as well as Freitas, turned their cell phones over to Public Safety to experience a week of life “unplugged.” During this time, they had to rely on alternative plans of communication. While it was challenging at first, the students overall found this to be an eye-opening experience. The experiment received so much media attention outside campus that the administration decided if it was good enough for one class, it was good enough for the entire school. (Professors and administrators, however, are not required to participate in this ban.)
Freitas, who started it all, agrees. “Adelphi students are more capable and resilient than even they think they are. If my class of first-year students can give up their smartphones for an entire week--all of us can,” she said.
Freitas also thinks that it’s a great idea to get the whole university involved in the ban and she hopes others will see “that life unplugged has its perks.”
Shirel Mani, an English concentration major in the STEP program, said, “I definitely rely on my phone a little too much, even to check the time when I have a watch on my wrist. I think that people will learn that there is life outside of their phone.”
Even so, Mani is worried about how she’s going to make it through the week and is questioning why an entire Adelphi community needs to experiment just because one class succeeded.
Mani said, “Personally, I think it would be impossible since students need their phones just to contact their friends and families, as well as to call for help in the case of an emergency.”
One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “If the fall class proved it can be done, I don’t see the sense in proving it again. Can’t we just take their word for it and thank them for their sacrifice?”
Katharine Pigliacelli, cataloging and Metadata specialist at Swirbul Library, expressed similar concerns. When asked if it might interfere with her daily life, she said. “Yes, because there may be an emergency—or a funny meme I have to look at.”
Pigliacelli added that it should not be mandatory. “I don’t think it’s fair because the school shouldn’t be able to take people’s personal property.”
Despite these concerns, the cellphone ban will start Wednesday, April 1. You have until the end of day to comply. Students are advised to make plans for alternative means of communication and to familiarize themselves with the locations of landline phones in case of an emergency. While this may seem like a hindrance, “life unplugged” could be an eye-opening experience for everyone.
The only hindrance, Freitas said, “is that Bob and his staff from Public Safety, who helped us this fall with our experiment, are going to have to get a bigger safe!”