Plans for a campaign against laptop bans in some classrooms have taken shape within the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Vice-President University Affairs Adrian Huntelar included preliminaries of the plan in his January executive report.
According to Huntelar, the campaign is starting off with a Google form to collect more information on the people affected by the ban. The UTSU is also planning a postcard campaign where students can fill out the names of the instructors and the course codes of the classes that ban laptops; the cards will be sent to the instructors via campus mail.
The union is developing open letter templates and lobbying guides as a resource for other student societies and unions when they approach their respective administrations about laptop bans.
Huntelar approached Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, Susan McCahan on the issue. He said she told him that the administration will not explicitly prevent instructors from implementing the ban within their classrooms.
The laptop ban debate gained a lot of attention following a September 2016 op-ed published in The Globe and Mail by two U of T professors in the Department Political Science, titled “Why we are weaning our students from electronic noise.”
The Varsity collected responses to the ban back when the op-ed was published. Students generally disapproved of the ban, expressing accessibility concerns and the need for professors to adapt to the ever-changing learning environment.
Professor Clifford Orwin, one of the professors who co-wrote the op-ed, informed The Varsity that the ban was no longer in place in his classroom.
Orwin and Professor Ryan Balot, the other op-ed co-author, explained that they have shifted away from the ban and have adopted a “less intrusive policy” of permitting laptops for notes. They now have students turn off all other devices at the beginning of each lecture. They stress that this new policy is experimental and that they “are still assessing the results.”
U of T did not provide a statement on the ban or the UTSU’s campaign against it by press time.
Editor’s Note (February 12): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Huntelar spoke with Cheryl Regher. Huntelar actually spoke with Susan McCahan.