Steve La Cerra has some pretty strong opinions about a phone ringing—or vibrating—when it's class time. It's about professionalism...and respect.

September is back-to-school time, and the start of a new semester means welcoming new students to my audio courses. The first day, we review the academic nuts and bolts like assignments, attendance and grading policies, then lay out the ground rules for what I expect of them in class. Those rules include turning off cell phones during class, mine included. I explain to my students that if they put their phone on vibrate, I will certainly hear it. I can, after all, hear a field mouse eating a slice of Swiss cheese at a hundred yards. Some of my students think I’m nuts; some of them may be right.

Why do I want cell phones turned off? There are several reasons, one of which is that we don't want a cell phone keying up to receive a text or call in the middle of a recording session. It’s more than possible for RF to make its way into an instrument pickup or even a balanced line, thus ruining a take or a performance. That's a legit concern. It's also legit that cell phones are a distraction.

More importantly it's just plain rude. When you are with a client, that client is the most important thing in the world, and you need to give them your full attention. Looking at your phone while having a conversation with a client is a sure way to annoy them. If they want to waste time on the clock by texting or making phone calls, that's their prerogative (and in my world, the clock continues to run while they are doing so), but if you do it it's bad for business. Imagine how your client would feel if he or she wanted to do another vocal take and your response was, “Hold on, I'm texting my friend.”

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There are penalties if a cell phone sounds during a class. The rules go like this: First violation is a “get-out-of-jail-free” card; Second is one point taken off their final grade; Third is five points off their final grade; any more, and I reduce their grade by a letter. Think I'm kidding? Ask—oops, I can't mention his name—and he'll tell you how his B-plus went to a C because he couldn’t keep his hands off his phone during class time.

Of course, I allow exceptions for students who have small children or ill family members, but those are the guidelines. Maybe I am a little nuts, but it’s interesting to see how people can learn to live without their phones for a few hours.