Apparently, the police in West Lafayette, IN showed up at a business law class after a student reported the instructor for stealing his cell phone. The instructor (who is also a judge in Lafayette) confiscated the phone for ringing during class, but refused to return it immediately after the class ended. He said he was going to give it to the Dean of Students and that it could be picked up there. (Sounds good to me - inconvenience the student the same way he inconvenienced the entire class for letting his cell phone ring.) This idea didn't sit well with the student (I'm guessing a business major), who called the police. The complaint was turned over to a Lafayette prosecutor who dismissed the charges. You can read the story here.
I am left with several impressions after reading this news article.
1. The instructor showed great nerve in not only taking the phone, but also not giving it back immediately. I do hope he had the cell phone policy in his syllabus, however, since that seems to be the end-all-be-all of classroom disputes.
2. The student showed great nerve in calling the cops on his instructor. It must have been quite a sight to see the student's righteous indignation. Although, I think the student probably went too far and should have sucked it up and gone to the Dean of Students to retrieve his phone. I am kind of proud that s/he handled it himself and didn't call mommy or daddy to save him.
3. I imagine that next class session was pretty awkward. Do you drop the class after accusing the instructor of stealing and trying to get him arrested? Or do you sit tight knowing that you got a perfect claim for retaliation if you don't get the grade you wanted in class.
4. Where did the student get the phone to call the cops? Did s/he borrow it from a fellow classmate? Did the person who loaned the phone know what it was going to be used for? How awkward is it for this classmate to stay in the business law course?
Personally, I don't have a policy on cell phones in class. Inevitably a few go off every semester, but I just ignore them or wait until they have stopped ringing (maybe do a little dance if the tune is particularly good) before continuing with my lecture. I have a colleague, however, who takes 1% off a student's final class grade every time his or her cell phone rings in class. That is pretty hard core, but effective. I think he's only had 1 cell phone ring in the 3+ years he's had the policy.