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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prof Tells Students: Don't Email Me

Inside Higher Ed, Don't Email Me:

Email SyllabusA Salem College faculty member last semester took an uncompromising approach to curbing syllabus and inbox bloat: Why not ban most student emails?

“For years, student emails have been an assault on professors, sometimes with inappropriate informality, sometimes just simply not understanding that professors should not have to respond immediately,” Spring-Serenity Duvall, assistant professor of communications at Salem College, wrote in a blog post last week. “In a fit of self-preservation, I decided: no more. This is where I make my stand!”

Duvall’s frustration is shared by many in academe -- or anyone with an email account -- from faculty members beset by questions they have answered both in class and in writing to students inundated by university email blasts. This spring, when Duvall taught at the University of South Carolina at Aiken, she adopted a new email policy to cut down on emails from students telling her they would be late, or would miss class, or would have leave early, or any of the countless others that could be

Instead of wasting class time on walking her students through an increasingly complicated flowchart diagram of when they could and could not email her, Duvall stopped the problem at its core: No emails -- unless you’re scheduling an in-person meeting.


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What's the over-under on the number of emails asking about the email policy?

Posted by: James Edward Maule | Aug 28, 2014 8:09:36 AM

Finally got it down to 682 messages in my email box.

Posted by: Jim Osburn CPA | Aug 28, 2014 7:23:06 PM

I have to agree the students often do not want to spend the effort to look themselves

Posted by: rich | Aug 28, 2014 7:32:55 PM

FTA: "Dr. Spring-Serenity Duvall (Indiana University, 2010) is a feminist media scholar who researches transnational celebrity culture, commodity activism, breastfeeding advocacy, and girl culture."

A better idea is to shun this woman's courses. They are a waste of your time and money.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Aug 28, 2014 7:54:38 PM

They don't call it the Ivory Tower for nothing! Keep the peasants outside and guessing.

Posted by: Kendall | Aug 28, 2014 7:55:09 PM

I quit using e-mail some time ago and have not missed it a bit.


Posted by: Paul L. Quandt | Aug 28, 2014 8:00:20 PM

I have an automated reply for all emails. "I am sorry, I am in the office now. I only reply to emails when I am out of the office and can't read them."

Major major major major

Posted by: Major major major major | Aug 28, 2014 8:50:12 PM

Unfortunately, most students can't string together two coherent sentences these days.

My guidelines are that the email must:

--Include a concise, explicit subject line
--Include a proper salutation
--Have a clear and apparent purpose
--Include all relevant information pertaining to the purpose of the email
--Include proper paragraph structure and proper grammar
--Include another form of contact (besides reply email) in case I need to communicate with the sender
--Include a proper closing

If all these criteria are not met, I WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE EMAIL.

School is training for life. Students are paying to be trained for life. They are not customers who are always right.

Emails are a PITA but, used properly, they can be very useful.

Posted by: Amy | Aug 28, 2014 10:12:35 PM

Wow. With a resume like hers, it's a wonder she can find the office.

And she is a professor of "communications", to boot

Posted by: Flight-ER-Doc | Aug 29, 2014 12:55:09 AM

It's pretty laughable reading the above. It must give everyone tenured prof immense joy in a service industry that you think you can dictate the terms on which you respond to requests from your customers.

If they ever remove tenure, so help me, you will all find yourselves so quickly unemployed. Those students you ridicule are your customers. They pay your salaries. Out in the private marketplace, no matter how inanne, you do not dictate such things to your customers. If you did, your boss would fire you in a heartbeat.

Best all of you pray that the party keeps going until after you retire. You will fail completely in the marketplace.

Posted by: Jeffrey | Aug 29, 2014 4:54:38 AM

I agree with Jeffrey. This would never fly in the private sector. If I behaved this way with customers, prospects and colleagues, I'd be out of a job in no time.

Posted by: Cloudbuster | Aug 29, 2014 5:20:42 AM

She should be making her stand on the unemployment line.

Posted by: Bandit | Aug 29, 2014 5:45:12 AM

"Gentlemen, this is the War Room; you can't fight here."
"I am a communication professor; you can't e-mail me."

Posted by: submandave | Aug 29, 2014 7:01:41 AM

While students deserve to be treated with all due respect, they are not our customers. They are our product. Our customers are their employers, clients, states where they practice, etc... So teaching them appropriate e-mail use seems the lease we can do.

Posted by: drd | Aug 29, 2014 12:03:48 PM

DRD - No, the students are your paying customers, there to receive the product (instruction that results in an education) that you deliver. While their future employers will benefit from it, the students are paying to receive an education and that results in you being paid to deliver it. They are clearly the paying customer, and most of them continue to pay for years after they've graduated and gone on to the employers, clients, states, etc. And for every employer I've worked for over the last 20 years, not accepting or responding to email from paying customers is inappropriate in the workplace.

Posted by: BertramS | Aug 31, 2014 2:39:24 AM


Posted by: Vijay | Sep 3, 2014 9:49:12 AM