Law Schools

'Epidemic' Leads to UofC Law Web Ban

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The University of Chicago Law School has shut down Internet access for most of its classrooms because too many students were surfing the Web instead of taking notes on their laptops.

U of C law Dean Saul Levmore told students and faculty in an e-mail that he took action after classroom observers told him about an “epidemic” of Internet use in class, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports (article posted on the university’s website).

“Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes and within 20 minutes, an entire row is shoe shopping,” he said. “Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated.”

Levmore told the Law Bulletin that some students were e-mailing others to help them answer professors’ classroom questions. But the larger problem, he said, is that students are being distracted from participating in the classroom experience. Soon the students “are going to go out to law firms and other settings where they’re going to miss these years where they had opportunities for human interaction and contemplating ideas,” he said.

Some law professors have banned laptops entirely from their classrooms, an idea considered but rejected at U of C. One of them is Suffolk University Law School professor Kate Nace Day. “Laptops are pedagogical nuisances,” she told the ABA Journal in a November 2007 story.

Levmore said he is doing his own part to avoid distraction. He has pledged that he will no longer check his BlackBerry under the table at university meetings.

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