Cellphones ring in new year

University of Illinois student Rachel Smith doesn't want to envision a world without cellphones. She's had her phone for two years and felt the need to bring her free long-distance minutes to campus.

"I knew it was going to be important because I can take it anywhere," said the freshman in general curriculum. "If I don't have my phone, it's kind of like I lost my world."

A recent survey by e-Marketer shows that nearly seven in 10 full-time college students own a wireless phone. So if ever in need of a cellphone for an emergency, descend on the UI Quad, where flocks of students carry the mobile devices in their backpacks, pockets or on their belt clips. Once viewed as a fashion accessory or for those working on Wall Street, the cellphone has become one of the most important items for the everyday person.

Smith met fellow freshman Candice Usher last week for the first time during their Spanish 122 class. Since then, they exchanged cellphone numbers to keep in closer contact. Usher has a Nextel walkie-talkie phone, promoted in the Dennis Franz commercials, and understands the cellphone craze.

"A lot of phone plans you can get are pretty cheap and it's portable," she said.

Jessica Guzman just wants to be safe. As a freshmen, she feels her cellphone adds a sense of protection.

"If I have to walk home by myself, I don't feel scared," said Guzman about the ability to call 911 or a friend at a moment of danger.

Senior Lisa Fish also feels safer with her cellphone nearby and uses the long-distance minutes to call family and her boyfriend, who lives three hours away. Whenever she walks around campus, Fish said she sees cellphones everywhere, and she doesn't like the trend.

"It's just so impersonal," she said. "People are walking down the Quad talking on their cellphones, and then they will see someone they know and put down their phones for a second before putting it back to their ear."

UI teachers are slowly getting used to seeing the device when students walk into their classrooms, but correct cellphone etiquette remains sporadic. Instead of shutting the phones off, many students either set their phone on vibrate and place it on their desks or place it in the bottom of their backpack to muffle any rings, both of which don't work.

"I think it is rude, annoying and disruptive to the rest of the class," Jeff Moore, professor of chemistry, said about hearing cellphones ringing while he's teaching.

Moore, who teaches 300-student organic chemistry classes, waits until the first incident of the year before reminding students to shut off the phones, along with giving them a few friendly reminders throughout the semester.

"I am not going to blow it out of proportion," he added. "People just forget to turn it off."

His colleague takes a different tack. One day a student's cellphone rang in chemistry Professor Tyson Miller's class. He walked up to the student and answered her phone.

"I said, 'Chem. 234, how can I help you?'" recalled Miller. "The person on the other line hung up. They probably thought they dialed a wrong number. I tell students if a cellphone goes off over the course of my lecture, I assume it is for me. They got the message."

Student Chris Lippmann uses his cellphone often and doesn't even know the number at his Florida Avenue Residence hall room. Even though he carries his phone around campus, Lippmann said he always remembers to put his phone on vibrator or shut it down before class.

"It is kind of ridiculous. It's a big, disruptive mess," said Lippmann about hearing phones ring in class. "Students need to watch out or teachers are going to get mad. Turning it off is kind of a habit."

Miller, who sometimes teaches 200 to 300 student lectures, said he never has problems in smaller classes.

"They (students) are more aware that they are not anonymous," he said. "When they think they are in a mass of hundreds, they don't pay attention as much."

Carol Symes, assistant history department professor, is teaching her first big survey class this fall. She remains in the minority of faculty who has never heard the sound of a cellphone disturbing her lecture.

"I haven't had any bad experiences, but I'm bracing myself for it," said Symes, who sees the devices as convenient, but still isn't a fan. "I can't see the lure of someone being able to reach me at all times."

Erica Taffs can, but won't be able to enjoy it.

The Silver Spring, Md., resident had to send her father's cellphone back home after the first couple of days of classes.

"I am struggling without and dealing with the phone that is in my room," said the sophomore. "I wish I could have kept it because it is convenient. You can talk anywhere on campus and not miss a call. It is a lot different to have to run back to check messages."

Wireless etiquette tips

U.S. Cellular Co., which serves more than 4.3 million customers, offers everyone seven simple tips for better wireless etiquette.

1. Lock 'em up - When your phone is on but not in use, make sure to use your key lock function to prevent dialing emergency numbers.

2. TMB (Text Me Back) - When you need to connect and it's inappropriate to place a call, such as during a business meeting or classroom, use your phone's text messaging capabilities to deliver important messages.

3. Watch Your Tone - Choose the most appropriate ring tone when in a professional setting, and save the downloadable music for when you're out with friends. The samba ring available on your wireless phone has a great beat, just not during a board meeting or lecture hall classes.

4. No Need to Shout - Despite the smaller handsets now available, your callers can hear you just as well on a wireless phone as on a regular phone. Keep your voice to a low, conversational tone.

5. Consider Your Surroundings ? - Be aware of wireless-free quiet zones and your phone usage in a crowded environment , and always put the people you're with first ? - not the person calling you. Leave the vicinity if you absolutely must take a call.

6. Make Amends Gracefully ? - If you forget to turn your phone off or set it to vibrate in a quiet zone and it begins to ring, don't be tempted to take the call. Simply turn your ringer off, or let the call go to voice mail and apologize to those around you for the mistake. If you must take a call, please exit the room.

7. Use Available Technology ? - All the great add-ons for your phone like text messaging, voice mail, caller ID, or vibration mode are designed to help you be a more courteous wireless user. Use them wisely and often.

Source: U.S. Cellular Co.

You can reach Ernst Lamothe Jr. at (217) 351-5223 or via e-mail at elamothe@news-gazette.com.

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