At the start of the spring semester, all of my professors emphasized the results of a newly published study that found a correlation between laptop use and lower grades. Ultimately, my professors stressed laptops were the biggest source of distraction in classrooms not only for the user, but for the students in the immediate surrounding area.
Some may call it distraction, but I find watching other people’s laptop screens wildly entertaining. I fully admit it distracts me from the lesson, but I truly do not believe laptops are the most distracting item in classrooms — at least for me.
I’m the most distracted when someone near me is eating peanuts.
As all of my friends are begrudgingly aware, I have a very severe peanut allergy. It is a very fascinating, as well as upsetting, phenomena that I can die from licking a single Reese’s Piece. This means every time someone within a 5 foot radius, especially in a small classroom, starts eating peanuts I wonder which person in my general vicinity looks friendly enough to stab me with an EpiPen.
The University of Wisconsin needs to have peanut-free classrooms.
UW has great services to accommodate many students who need special arrangements in various academic settings, but I have never once heard of a peanut allergy accommodation outside of Liz’s Market. This is troubling, seeing as I am definitely not the only person on campus with a severe peanut allergy.
My allergy is unfortunately so severe I reacted to 5-hour-old AJ Bombers’ peanut dust on a friend’s clothes last year. So when someone 2 inches away from me is chowing down on a peanut butter sandwich in lecture, you can imagine how hard it is to concentrate on what a professor is saying.
When someone is eating a peanut product next to me, I first use my sleeve to cover up my nose so I don’t have to smell the strong odor of possible death that makes me very nauseous. I then spend the majority of the time wondering if I’m going to have a reaction from dust, a dropped piece or an accidental touch. Sometimes I wonder if I should tell the person consuming the peanuts I’m allergic, but I never want to be rude and understand what is like to be hungry in class.
This entire process lasts for the duration of peanuts being present. You can imagine it is pretty hard to concentrate on educational material during this process — I am completely distracted.
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Fixing the distraction is complicated. On one hand, eating peanuts near some students is distracting and threatening, while on the other, students are adults that should be able to consume what they please. Lectures are usually at the most three hours long and generally shorter, so food may be necessary to make it through class. But would it be so much of a burden to make classrooms peanut-free?
There are many alternative, less disturbing snacks. They even make granola bars without peanuts (I swear they do, I even eat them). There are just so many other options that would make me and other people who can die by the country’s most classic sandwich feel safer and be less distracted in classrooms.
Yes, laptops are distracting to students, but so are peanuts.
Stacey Sukoff ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in psychology.