21.2.06

CONVENIENT COMMUNICATION? The New York Times finds something else not to get bothered about.
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.
One of the professors quoted in the article has already posted a clarification at her site. Kieran at Crooked Timber has inspired his readers to come up with examples of particularly amusing student e-mail handles. (I have already covered this.) Acephalous imagines a plea for assistance in instant messenger patois. Daniel Drezner, Easily Distracted, and University Diaries wonder what all the fuss is about.

Atlantic Blog has a commendable perspective on proper use of electronic mail.

For the most part, I have no problems with student emails, with two caveats. First, I do not respond to emails written in the jargon of text messages. Partly this is a matter of manners. Text message jargon is appropriate for conversations with friends. It is not appropriate for people who are not your friends, where you are obliged to be clear. Which connects to the other part of my reason: I do not understand them.

Second, I once got an indignant email from a student, upset that I had ignored his previous email, which he forwarded to me. A quick glance explained the problem. The message had been caught by the spam checker, because the subject line was "Hey dude". I am not making that up.

That's effectively my position. A stern "hereafter, treat electronic mail as official Northern Illinois University business" generally suffices to secure subsequent communication in the approved form, without erasure or interlineation. I'll also announce that my last check of electronic mail the night before an exam will be at 10 pm, and almost never will an inquiry arrive in the in-box sometime between 10 and the next morning.

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