Why Headphones Should Be Allowed on Campus

Headphones should be allowed on campus for a plethora of reasons, extending to impacts beyond our immediate assumptions.

November 27, 2022


Over my more than three years at Archbishop Mitty, something has always confused me about our school policy: why are there so few places where listening devices are allowed on campus during the school day? It seems rather arbitrary and impractical that students should be prevented from using their earbuds in certain areas of campus while they are permitted to do so in others (the library and Sobrato). It’s time that Mitty updated its headphone policy to allow for increased use. 

Justifications for this policy are that it encourages student socialization and discourages the misuse of iPads. On the surface, this is understandable; Mitty doesn’t want students watching or listening to things they shouldn’t or engrossing themselves in their iPads when they could be interacting with their peers. However, neither of these reasons holds up well in practice. 

Where is the line drawn between proper and improper use of technology?

Firstly, where is the line drawn between proper and improper use of technology? When it’s non-academic? When it’s for entertainment? In this case the answer, it would seem, is neither of these, but simply when it is in the wrong place. After all, if students are allowed to listen to music or watch YouTube in the library but not in the Quad, then the issue is a function of location, not of action. But why should this be the case? Why shouldn’t a student be allowed to use headphones to do an EdPuzzle or watch a video while they eat lunch (which, of course, is not allowed in the locations where headphones are currently permitted), or listen to music while enjoying the sunshine outside? 

The answer likely comes down to the desired atmosphere of these locations; Sobrato and the library are designated as quiet study spaces, whereas other areas of campus are intended to be vibrant, loud, and atmospheric. In theory, forbidding headphones in these areas fosters a more lively and interactive atmosphere; yet in practice, this does not produce the desired effect. If someone’s need or desire to use their headphones is strong enough, they will either ignore the rule or be forced to do so elsewhere; and if it isn’t, then they will either keep to themselves or socialize when they would rather not be doing so in the first place. Is this rather mediocre outcome worth the sheer inconvenience for both students and staff it entails? I would argue it isn’t, and that revision of this policy would therefore be a most welcome and prudent decision on the part of the school’s administration.

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