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Editorial: Some class interruptions are a safety necessity

As the first week of college nears its end, a phrase has become common in many professors’ syllabi — electronic-free classrooms.

Professors continually emphasize that they do not want to be interrupted by even the slightest vibration of a cell phone.

Although professors make exceptions for emergency phone calls, it seems likely that a student would receive a bad look, if not an expulsion from the class, if a cell phone were to go off.

But there is one disruption that a student can’t forewarn a professor of — a campus emergency.

Although the University has rarely experienced dangerous situations, in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre USF launched an emergency notification system that students were advised to register for when logging on to Oasis for the first time this semester.

Making an admirable move to protect its students, the University keeps them informed of potential problems, closures and emergencies through the MoBull system.

The system proved useful over the summer during a false alarm involving an ROTC student walking around campus with a dummy rifle. Students were alerted to avoid the Cooper Hall area. USF administrators recognized this event as a successful test and boasted the triumph of the alert system.

Despite this success, some professors have overlooked a flaw in their classroom policy.

Banning electronics, especially cell phones, from classrooms prevents students from receiving an emergency alert. A student can’t know to keep away from a building or evacuate one if the message is never received.

As part of the administration’s campaign to strengthen campus security, USF announced Friday that it would be installing loud speakers, sirens and strobe lights, among other things, to alert students in case of an emergency.

This move is necessary and a good idea for students in a classroom climate that prevents them from accessing the technological tools that would inform them of a potentially deadly situation.

A loudspeaker system will not only be an effective first line of defense for students, it will be a good backup in case the MoBull system fails.

Until the University installs this new system, it would be beneficial to students and professors if at least one phone were allowed to vibrate in class, preferably the professor’s. A cell phone rattling on the table for a minute is a small inconvenience that may well protect the lives of students, faculty and staff.