Scholarship News

Naughty College Chancellor’s Commencement Netiquette


May 31, 2016
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Bruce Leslie has already come under fire for some controversial calls he's made and now he's been busted phone-scrolling during commencement ceremonies. While he was ON THE STAGE, no less. Colleges and universities are struggling with cell phone policies with students constantly caught using their mobile devices and laptops for non-academic purposes in academic settings and situations. But what's the punishment for a college Chancellor's cellphone perusing...during a commencement ceremony? Nothing, really.

Bruce Leslie has already come under fire for some controversial "calls" he's made and now he's been busted phone-scrolling during commencement ceremonies. While he was ON THE STAGE, no less. Colleges and universities are struggling with cell phone policies with students constantly caught using their mobile devices and laptops for non-academic purposes in academic settings and situations. But what's the punishment for a college Chancellor's "cellphone perusing"...during a commencement ceremony? Nothing, really.

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Ironically, Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie pushed a self-help book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into the "system curriculum, replacing a required humanities course." He felt the need to do so after realizing "some graduates hardly looked him in the eye or knew how to shake his hand as they were accepting diplomas during graduation." Following the incident, Leslie apologized "if he offended anyone." He spent a reported 40 minutes scrolling on his smartphone during a commencement at Palo Alto College, where many graduates are first-generation, low-income, and predominantly Mexican-American college students.

This isn't Leslie's first time exhibiting poor etiquette in a professional setting - he's been known to behave poorly at faculty meetings as well. But Leslie is not alone. Other faculty, administrators, and even board members in the world of higher education have been caught drinking and sleeping during commencements. The entire law faculty at the University of California at Berkeley has been known to convene at 10 a.m., graduation day, and have a "leisurely lunch" while graduates filed on stage. They would regroup later, "oblivious to or unnoticed by parents and families."

Were students on their phones during the commencement ceremony? Some have argued that, despite the sometimes poor netiquette displayed by students, educators must be held to the "highest standards of comportment and professionalization," and that they "set institutional culture." One resolution to the problem is to jam cellular devices, but that is illegal since it may obstruct signal from an emergency call. Another option would be to Wi-Fi jam cellphones. Or perhaps implement a no cell phone policy for those on stage.

Do you think educators should have a stricter no cell phone policy? Should the Chancellor receive some form of punishment for his mobile misuse? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.

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Maria S.  on  6/1/2016 9:05:42 AM commented:

Although cell phones are a problem for many people, that is their choice weather or not they want to use them, and when they want to. In this case, the school should make rules for educators to follow, even though they should be old enough to make the right decision themselves. The educators need to respect their students and the students will respect them.

Alexa A.  on  5/31/2016 8:00:27 PM commented:

In my opinion, educators' cell phone policies shouldn't become stricter because it is nearly impossible. In a continuous and rapid growth in the use of technology, creating a stricter use of cell phones would be hard to do. For example, a teacher may make a rule that a student can't use their laptop or cell phones in class. However, the teacher begins to allow students to take out their cell phones for educational purposes. Soon, the cell phone use begins to increase and students use their cell phones for other purposes during their intended educational time. Also, creating more restrictions on cell phones only increases a student's desire to use the device. I believe the best policy has always been that you shouldn't use your cell phone during instructional time. If a student does so during instructional time, they will earn a punishment all on their own by not listening to important information and doing poorly on tests. If the student truly cares, they will do what is right.

Camden W.  on  5/31/2016 6:32:02 PM commented:

It is a common belief that anyone with a position of authority should follow the same rules that they enforce. Now I wouldn't suggest anything too drastic, but it was inconsiderate to not be taking part in an important moment such as graduation. Perhaps collecting electronic devices could be used as a way to mark attendance for students and staff.

Whitney wrj  on  5/31/2016 3:54:00 PM commented:

Yes, I think that there needs to be a stricter cell phone policy. It should follow the guidelines of " educational when appropriate" if using the cell phone helps you benefit in your education instead of just being a social gateway.

Jamaal W.  on  5/31/2016 3:40:27 PM commented:

This is interesting as I've never seen this problem occur at my university's graduation. This us difficult to decide because I've been in several instances where my class was interrupted because my professor had to take an emergency call from a spouse or family member. Honestly, I don't think they can have a stricter no phone policy because these faculty have family and unexpected, important situations may arise. They need to have the access to answer these types of phone calls. However, I do believe that universities should continually remind and encourage their faculty to remind their relatives and friends to call if it's only an emergency, thereby eliminating the chance of unnecessary calls. Now in the case of the chancellor, that's different. He wasn't addressing some emergency call, he was casually just using his phone. I think that's not only disrepair tail to the graduates and attendees, but also to the university itself. He is viewed as a high professional authority figure, so he should not be behaving in a manner that's unprofessional. I don't think he should be fired necessarily, but I do think he should be heavily reprimanded and reminded that he not only represents himself, but the university as well. I don't think there needs to be a change in the cell phone policy, I think colleges/universities need to hold their faculty/staff accountable in regards to the policies that are already set in place.

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