Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Email and etiquette

I've pitched in my $.02. There's just no way that it's rude not to respond to an email. If you respond to email, you've gone above and beyond the call of duty. I guess I'll now say thanks to NS for his quick response to my email. (See how natural the view is. You say 'thanks' when people get back to you but you don't thank people for merely doing what etiquette requires.) I guess I should add that it is inappropriate to decide against responding to emails sent by people known to think it's not rude not to respond to emails because this is their view. That's another matter entirely.


Udoka said...

Haha, we have a conversation about this! Wow. It's like... "Prof. Littlejohn is SOOO rude." and you're supposed to say "Sorry, I don't have internet!" Would you have to apologize for every email that you did not respond to?

As a student, I get a lot of emails saying "ON FRIDAY THERE IS GONNA BE AN XYZ BASH!". Its a mass email. What am I supposed to reply with? "Okay" or "I'm not going, sorry"? Would it really matter? I don't see the value in it, especially given the amount of time it would take. And would the sender really think any less of me for not responding?

Maybe this Baylor professor has much more time on his hands?

The Prof. Cullison who replied after you seems mean. I'd understand if he put that kind of restriction on emails just to save time and eliminate dumb emails or questions about things that are in the syllabus or something, but he's doing it because he thinks it lowers his value or makes him submissive to the student which I disagree with. At the same time it makes me feel guilty for sending you emails like "I forgot when the paper was due". :( If I were you, I would have replied today and said "It was due last Friday".

Udoka said...

Sorry for leaving multiple comments, but I was thinking about this some more. I don't know why... but I was.

Its really annoying when professors do not respond to emails from students. To the point that we will go to ratemyprofessor.com and tell everyone in the world that "This professor does not respond to emails"

If you're a good professor, we take it as "one of his quirks" and if you're a bad professor it just adds to our disdain for you. If you're a really good professor (or rather just a really organized one...), I don't know if students would care to email you as much.

I'm not saying that students are so important as to fear their opinion of you. And I'm not hating on you for not responding to emails. And I'm not even referring to YOU when I say "you". I was just thinking that maybe it is important to respond to certain emails because not responding could make something bad happen.

So maybe we're all a little bit wrong.

Or maybe making a student feel annoyed isn't actually considered rude. But what if you were making your favourite presidential candidate feel annoyed by not answering his(or her :D) email? Maybe that's rude. Maybe I am putting way too much thought into this.

Mike Almeida said...

I'm sure I don't follow what appears to be some inside stuff here, but I couldn't agree more with the sentiment. I'm frankly stunned on occasion that I get any response at all when I fuss some point (in some paper) with a genuine philosophical player. It would not surprise me in the least to learn they had something better to do. I htink that goes generally. So I think you're exactly right here on he rudeness question.

Leo Iacono said...

"You say 'thanks' when people get back to you but you don't thank people for merely doing what etiquette requires."

If that were a chess move I would have given it a ?! (dubious move)

How about this for a far-fetched scenario: I attend the wedding of a friendly acquaintance. I give the newlyweds a gift, as etiquette requires. They send me a thank you card.

Clayton said...

I agree, not the most careful test. Are you going to the Central? Howard's wedding? Both?

Hey Udoka,
You should tell the other kids in class that I can't get to the email until I get to your blog comments ;) Also, I think students should be a bit more fine grained in their attitudes towards teachers' responses to emails. Some people teach two courses a semester and have about 25 students. Some people teach four courses a semester, have nearly 200 students, work a second job on their days off, and don't have internet at home. There's a difference between those in the first category who don't respond to emails and those in the second.

Hey Mike,
Ditto. Whenever I've received a response from some big time philosopher, I think it's superdupererogatory.

Clayton said...


I should say I know Cullison and he's actually a sweetheart.


Andrew Cullison said...


Thanks for the love.


I try to restrict the email stuff so that questions that are easily answered by a cursory glance online shouldn't be the sort of thing that warrants a response.

I should also note that I mention in the syllabus that there are MANY, MANY things that I will go back and forth with for students for HOURS. If a student wants to talk philosophy with me - I'll do that ALL day over email.

So my issue isn't that responding to those emails makes me feel submissive to students. In a way, I think that I am supposed to be kind of servant to the students, and I do feel obliged to be regularly available to students - but it seems that the time is best reserved to do something like talk philosophy with the students or provide comments on a draft etc...

Ludwig's Drivers said...

L:You say 'thanks' when people get back to you but you don't thank people for merely doing what etiquette requires.
I:I attend the wedding of a friendly acquaintance. I give the newlyweds a gift, as etiquette requires. They send me a thank you card.

Me: I think Clayton is correct. What is overlooked in Leo's case is that etiquette requires one to send a thank you card for gifts. The thank you card is not sent to the gift-givers for their merely doing what etiquette requires; it is sent because etiquette requires it be sent.