Erin Milligan has to surrender her cell phone to school officials before going back to college this year.
Milligan isn’t being punished for violating any rules. She’s just following Wyoming Catholic College’s technology policy, which bans cell phones at the small liberal arts school.
And even more surprising, as someone who grew up in a generation that has never known a world without the Internet, Milligan says she likes it.
“It’s a release, really, not having a cell phone,” said Milligan, a 20-year-old junior from New Hampshire. “When you are no longer captivated by technology, you find your true and real self.”
Also banned at Milligan’s school are televisions and access to most websites in dorm rooms. Administrators allow only limited Internet connectivity throughout the campus, so students can do online research.
Before the start of each school year, Milligan and her 111 classmates at the college relinquish the devices most of their peers elsewhere use to stay constantly connected to friends, family and classmates. Student leaders lock the phones in a box in each dorm room.
Students can check them out for emergencies or if they leave campus for travel.
“We are so tech savvy these days,” Milligan said. “But something that is really prevalent is our inability to genuinely communicate at a human-to-human, face-to-face level.”
“We’ve all have the experience where you are talking to someone and their phone goes off, or their text goes off, and they stop talking to you and begin talking someone who is not there,” Tonkowich said. “I’m worried about that direction in our society, where people you aren’t with are more important than the people you are with.”
Milligan said the students actually appreciate the freedom of being disconnected and become accustomed to the unusual policy after a few weeks at the school.
“We realize that spending too much time on a computer prohibits us from doing something that we should be doing or something that is fun,” the college sophomore said. “I don’t want to be someone who is just texting friends and not talking to them, and have a Facebook profile to define who I am.”
“Technology is a mask and can be a deception in this world," said Milligan, who is studying to become a teacher but is also considering a life with the church. “I don’t think I will be behind other people, because I will be developing something that will be dying – the ability to communicate.”
The penalty for violating the technology policy is performing community service.
“We don’t see this as thumbing our nose at tech and modern culture,” Tonkowich said. “We’re allowing a freedom and a vacation from all that so that students can work on something different: true friendship, true virtue, true study.