Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Horror

If you were looking for it, this article provides decisive proof of the impending apocalypse.

Students emailing their professors at all hours of the day!

Students showing less deference!

Students coming right out and questioning professorial judgment to our electronic faces!

What is the world coming to!

The New York Times requires registration to read it's stuff, so here are some choice paragraphs from the piece ("To: Subject: Why It's All About Me," by Jonathan D. Glater):
At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance.

These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages — from 10 a week to 10 after every class — that are too informal or downright inappropriate.

"The tone that they would take in e-mail was pretty astounding," said Michael J. Kessler, an assistant dean and a lecturer in theology at Georgetown University. " 'I need to know this and you need to tell me right now,' with a familiarity that can sometimes border on imperative."

He added: "It's a real fine balance to accommodate what they need and at the same time maintain a level of legitimacy as an instructor and someone who is institutionally authorized to make demands on them, and not the other way round."

While once professors may have expected deference, their expertise seems to have become just another service that students, as consumers, are buying. So students may hae no fear of giving offense, imposing on the professor's time or even of asking a question that may reflect badly on their own judgment.

Now, I know there are large numbers of educators working in academia whose lives are toilsome and insecure: junior tenure-track faculty have to work at their research and writing while juggling teaching loads, and faculty in non-tenure track adjunct positions often have to knit several such posts together in order to put food on the table. These are massive structural issues which pose serious problems for academia.

Student emails, however, do not occupy the same category. I actually thought this article had been cooked up by The Onion when I first read it.

It's my firm belief that if you're an academic with tenure at your institution, you should not be complaining about anything. Certainly you shouldn't be whining about work conditions in the New York Times. (Full disclosure: I have tenure.)

Man, my father was an educated person who emigrated from his country and worked in a non-unionized belt-making factory for his entire adult life. When I was in high school, I worked with my dad for two summers, cutting and stamping belts, and I'll just say that working conditions were pretty difficult.

So what do I do if a student emails me at 10:30 at night, asking about an assignment due the next day? If it's a valid question and I'm online, I answer them. But that's just me.

Tsk! Being willing to talk to students? Not being threatened by the occasional lapse in formality? Answering legitimate email questions when you've got the opportunity?

Honestly, what kind of professor are you?!


(I kinda envy your students. :-) Just a teeny bit.)
Aww, thanks, Kal.

This is a mutual envy-thon: I of your profs.
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