Friday, November 7, 2014

Square State Suzy Corresponds!

Hi Suzy!

I´m [first name] from [place] and I'm stuying [some program not mine] in the University of [place].This is my first year and i have to do a project from my computing class about a website which includes whatever related to my career so i have chosen the [thingy] programs in [certain] universities so i would like you to waste a little bit of your time(not too much) helping me by sending the [some program not mine] of the university or by reporting me all about my career.I would be so grateful.

Thanks so much and sorry for the inconvenience.


Dear Mr. or Ms. [last name],

All such information can be found on the web site of our university.



  1. Such a disappointing response. The information on your school's website is in paragraph form, not the bullet list that this student needs. Or, if it is a bullet list, then the student requires the information in prose. I thought teachers were supposed to be helpful.

  2. I hate it when I get e-mail that makes me want to respond, "Do your own homework." About 10-15 years ago, when the Internet had only recently entered the mainstream, it was not unusual for teachers to tell their classes to send e-mail to hapless people who had web pages, like me, asking them essentially to do their homework. As the only professional astronomer within 100 miles, I'd sometimes get 20-30 of these at a time from most students in a class. I once made the mistake of replying by telling them to tell their teacher that this isn't a good use of the Internet, and that it'd be much better to show them how to look up references themselves. Jeez Louise, did I catch shit for that! Mercifully, this nonsense appears to have become uncommon, today.

  3. This reminds me of what I often encountered in some of my lectures. I'd often be asked for, say, a yield point of a certain metal or the density of a certain material. That in itself wasn't a problem, but their textbooks often had that information in the back in an appendix.

    Guess what my answer was? That's right: "Look in the book." Why not? They paid for the book that has that information, so why not make use of it? Besides, once they got into industry, they would have had to look up stuff like that in reference texts or company standards.

    Guess what their reaction was? That's right: "Waaaaaaah! Can't you just tell us?"

    Guess who got raked over the coals in his evaluations for not being "helpful"? Guess who got the same treatment for "not using the textbook properly"? Guess what was used as evidence that this person was a *bad* instructor?

    It's a wonder I didn't develop a drinking problem while I was teaching.

  4. Dear [Last Name],

    Since your project is about a website, it would be good if you began at a website, rather than email. If that doesn't work, Gopher, Archie, and Veronica are your friends.

  5. I teach writing in the disciplines, so, not surprisingly, I include an assignment that guides students through the process of learning something about their discipline, how it works, and what sort of writing is commonly generated by its practitioners. There are questions to answer, and very detailed directions for finding the answers, none of which involve talking to or emailing other proffies (because everybody has to take the course I teach, and if even a few of the sections receive an assignment that involves direct contact with proffies, the proffies get -- understandably -- overwhelmed, and start complaining to the director of the writing program, who politely but firmly complains back to us). The assignment does, however, involve choosing one or two specific proffies to investigate, using published sources such as faculty bios, journal articles, and the like. Every semester, at least one student (out of about 90, so not so bad, but enough to generate a lot of the sort of emails Suzie received if multiplied over the number of sections and similar courses taught) complains that (s)he can't do the assignment because (s)he just transferred in and doesn't know any proffies, and/or starts sending emails/buttonholing professors after class to ask questions even though there's no mention on the assignment of doing that. Maybe I should tell them *not* to bother "their" proffies, but I've found that any statement that includes "not" in an assignment invariably gets turned into a "do" by at least one student, so I think that would leave me more or less where I am now.


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