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Friday, August 22, 2008

Abusive e-mails from students

Gordon Smith has shared a student e-mail and his response over at The Glom. Maybe it is just me, but I was pretty surprised that Gordon has only gotten three confrontational e-mails from students in his time. And I thought the student's e-mail was very mild relative to some crazy student e-mail I've received in my much shorter time. But then it doesn't surprise me that I might provoke students just a bit more than Gordon, who seems like a really nice guy.

Posted by Ethan Leib on August 22, 2008 at 11:28 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I wouldn't be too concerned about the lack of salutation in an email. I had a technical writing professor during my undergrad years at UF who spent about 30 minutes one day complaining about how much he hated when people include a salutation in their emails. In his opinion, an email is the same as a memorandum where the "To," "From," "CC," "Attachment," etc. fields are already filled in, so to add a salutation would be unnecessarily duplicative. However, "What up Prof?" is highly unprofessional and should be avoided.

Posted by: PW | Aug 26, 2008 3:08:29 PM

Agree with Ethan. I found Gordon's student's email rather mild and not disrespectful. What bothers me, even more than some of the habits identified by Jason, are the 1 or 2 psychos every year who use anonymous evaluations for theraputic purposes. Wholly unprofessional, and no accountability for what they say or the effect on professors' careers or feelings.

Posted by: anon | Aug 23, 2008 2:45:42 PM

Can you do a post on this?


I had a "Netiquette" policy in my syllabus about how to address me in emails, but i removed it feeling a bit pretentious. It really annoys me when i receive emails with no salutation and direct requests for paper topics and the like. Moreover, emails that begin with "Hey Prof" or "What's up Prof" or by my first make me feel disrespected.

What do other professors do?

Posted by: Jason | Aug 23, 2008 9:30:28 AM

Gordon Smith does seem like a genuinely nice guy - that seems like a great approach for dealing with that type of e-mail. Recognize the underlying concern, address the substantive issues, then sympathetically address the tone as well. I'm impressed.

Posted by: anon | Aug 22, 2008 9:24:05 PM

I had the same reaction - I have definitely received far more belligerent emails from my students, but I like Smith's response to the student, and I'm planning to use a similar approach the next time I receive a confrontational email from one of my students.

Posted by: Amy | Aug 22, 2008 1:09:25 PM

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