November
13th 2008
Ummm, you e-mailed *me* for advice, remember?

Posted under: American history, Gender, students

UPDATED BELOW

From the Historiann mailbag, this time from a student at Baa Ram U. whom I don’t know and have never had any correspondence with before:

I was hoping you could give me some reading suggestions for a biography on these three people: A definitive biography on Washington, Franklin, Jefferson. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated,

<Someguy>

That’s right:  no salutation, no explanation about who he is or what his interests might be.  Just the one-line e-mail above.  My reply:

Dear <Someguy>,

Do I know you?  Have we communicated previously?  I have no recollection of having met you before, nor do I have any idea as to why you might ask me these questions.  Please forgive me if we have met before–you might perhaps remind me of the circumstances.  Your note is so informal, without salutation, introduction, or explanation that I’m afraid you have mistaken me for someone else.

I would be happy to help you if I had more context for understanding your interest in these topics, and why you are consulting me.

Yours Very Sincerely,

<Prof. Historiann>

Here’s his reply:

I’m sorry for the informality.  I’m a student at CSU with some interest in studying history as a hobby.  I figured your dept would be a great resource so I contacted Prof. <HistoryChair> about who in your dept I could contact about reading suggestions for some of my interests.  He gave me your name as one of those people.  I have a book on the American Revolution that I’m reading and was thinking ahead about biographies for some of the people I’m interested in.  I was hoping you could give me your thoughts about which biographies are best for Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin.

Thanks,

<Someguy>

Still no salutation, but whatever.  My recommendations:

Dear <Someguy>,

There have been a number of recent popular biographies of these figures (as there always are!)  The major ones are by Joseph Ellis (who has written about Washington and Jefferson) and Gordon Wood (Franklin).  These are very traditional biographies, although they’re written for a wider audience.  I think there are more interesting biographies out there than just these, however.  For example, you might want to read Nancy Isenberg’s recent bio of Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s VP and the guy who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  I think her approach and interpretation of the early Republic are more interesting than Wood’s or Ellis’s books.

Good luck, and I hope you find more books you enjoy.

<Prof. Historiann>

Someguy wrote back, again without salutation or signature:

What do you think of the biography of Jefferson “American Sphinx”?

My reply:

Dear <Someguy>,

I understand that it’s the custom in text-messaging not to include a salutation or a signature, but it’s not appropriate in e-mails unless you are an intimate or a family member.  I don’t answer your questions in that fashion.

I am not a fan of Ellis’s work, because I think he’s a hagiographer rather than a critical historical biographer.  His book came out the same year as a much better book about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings and the Hemings family by Annette Gordon-Reed.  Gordon-Reed happened to be right about Sally Hemings and Jefferson, and Ellis was wrong.  (He
calls Sally Hemings “a tin can tied to Jefferson’s shoe,” or something like that,
as I recall.)  Ellis was inappropriately invested in “defending” Jefferson from charges that he was involved in a decades-long liason with a woman he owned, and that blinded him to historical facts.

Gordon-Reed has a new book out on the Hemings family that might be an interesting companion to your other, more traditional biographies of white, male “founding fathers.”

Best,

<Prof. Historiann>

You knew this was coming, right?

Thank you for responding, but at the same time it is not your duty to counsel others on how to conduct themselves via email.  I was never rude or inappropriate in any manner.  I’ve had many professors and others I’m not well acquainted with who email me in the same fashion.  There are many customs and practices and no single one is correct.  You are the first person I’ve had an email exchange with that feels the need to reprimand me about email etiquette.

I’m a 33 year old man who doesn’t need to be told how to conduct myself.  I do just fine.  Hopefully, in the future you will be more relaxed with not only students, but any person who may be interested in talking to you about history.  You will find that you shut out a lot of people in life by conducting yourself in this manner.

My reply:

Dear <Someguy>

Thanks for your frank reply.  I’ll bear that in mind the next time a complete stranger writes to me to ask for my professional advice.

<Prof. Historiann>

Oh yeah, you know it!  His extremely thoughtful reply:

Good.  By the way, using sarcasm doesn’t mean you’re justified in your response.  You’re the only professor I’ve ever contacted who views people that are asking a simple question about books as “complete strangers” as opposed to “someone I can help who has an interest in history”.  I wasn’t asking you to have lunch with me.  You’re response to this situation doesn’t match the context.  And don’t worry I won’t recommend that any other “complete strangers” contact you for any guidance.  There are far more personable people to talk to in this world. Please do not email me any longer.  I will no longer read any emails from you.  I’ve already wasted enough time on this nonsense.

That’s right.  Apparently, I have no right to set boundaries about contact with students.  I’m a mere female with a permeable body, and I’m just here to service the needs of male students, who of course can set all of the boundaries in our correspondence.  I don’t even know what my job is, apparently (“it is not your duty to counsel others on how to conduct themselves via email.”)  And did you like how he asks me to stop contacting him, as though I was consulting him for his advice?  Thanks, Someguy, for setting me straight!  I’ve wondered lo these many years why I have no friends, no family, and no meaningful relationships in my personal or professional life!  It’s all because I “shut out a lot of people in life by conducting [my]self in this manner.”  I was just waiting for you to e-mail me!  I have no other life or job responsibilities than to serve as an instant response help-line for people who want to read about eighteenth century America!

Fortunately, this is the first such exchange I’ve had with a student at Baa Ram U.  He’s 33 years old, and apparently doesn’t feel we have anything to offer him about how to conduct professional correspondence.  E-mail is no longer a de facto informal means of communication as it was in the 1980s and 90s.  I think it’s the standard in most industries for how business is done.  Good luck with that attitude, pal.  The next time I get an e-mail without a salutation or explanation from a stranger, I’ll just chuck it in the SPAM file.  Lesson learned:  no good deed goes unpunished.

UPDATE, 11/14/08:  I forwarded the correspondence to the Chair of the Philosophy department, who then wrote to say that she’d contact the student’s advisor and “see if we can’t have a chat with him about this.”  She said that she’s been addressed quite rudely by male students in the past too, “so I know exactly how you feel, and I assume that [a male faculty member] would never be spoken to that way, either.”

78 Comments »

78 Responses to “Ummm, you e-mailed *me* for advice, remember?”

  1. Bing McGhandi on 13 Nov 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    You know how restrained I am in my criticism, so believe me when I say this: What a little barf.

    Wow. You are suuuuch an ingrate for not being more thankful that a non-professional would stoop to consult you. Wow. Also double wow.

  2. nicolec on 13 Nov 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    Don’t you realize it is YOUR job to do research on books he should read about our nation’s heroes????
    Tell him to ask Jeeves.
    Douche.

    I say this knowing that I’ve asked you for advice, but that was long after knowing you personally and professionally…and not in the spirit of “you owe it to me” but rather in the spirit of “I really value your advice…please share it with me!”

  3. The_Myth on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:22 pm #

    What a pathetic prick.

    Did you politely tell the chair to not send hobbyist “historians” to you for advice in the future?

    I knew this wasn’t going to go well when a student at a university asks for books about such popular subjects. I’m betting your library card catalog would vomit up many of the references you suggested to any who did a search for those historical figures.

    Yet another entitled student.

    And one who should be old enough to have learned about manners. The whole “I’m offended that you told me I’m offensive!” attitude is so 10th grade.

    Who *are* some of these yobbos being let in [and out!] of college today????

  4. The History Enthusiast on 13 Nov 2008 at 10:31 pm #

    Yeesh. Guys like him make me so mad.

  5. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 5:40 am #

    The_Myth–I forwarded the correspondance to my department chair as just an FYI, to let him know in case he got some complaints. I also think it’s good for administrator-types to see the kind of harrassment and abuse that women faculty are subjected to. (Just a hunch, but I don’t think this guy would have corresponded with a man like this.) I’ve answered queries like this before, although they’re usually from people outside the university, and they’re perfectly friendly and appreciative.

    I think that in some ways this guys age makes him feel extra-entitled. (And yes, he didn’t grow up text-messaging, so I don’t get his commitment to “informality” as a Civil Right.) We really don’t have too many “snowflakes” at our large public U. In fact, when faculty actually know their students names and talk to them, I think it’s the exception more than the rule. My students generally have very low expectations of faculty contact, so this guy is very much the exception (but an annoying one, as you all point out!)

  6. Nikki on 14 Nov 2008 at 6:18 am #

    The whole “reading history is my hobby” annoys me as well. The men I have met who adopt this posture seem overwhelmingly dismissive of history as a discipline–even more so of anything other than traditional history. After all, how hard can it be?

    I had a male student take one of my women’s history classes and announce about half way through–to the whole class–that he was sick of reading about women. Nice.

  7. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 6:23 am #

    Well, he sure put you in your place, didn’t he, Nikki?

    I had a male student announce that he was relieved to read a book written by a man in a course on gender and sexuality, because he didn’t really trust that all of the women authors we had read to date were “objective” in their analysis. When a male author offered similar interpretations, he could rest assured that the women were reliable scholars. The fact that the women offered complimentary feminist analyses from different perspectives had nothing to do with establishing their authority–he was waiting for a random XY chromosome to weigh in.

  8. Dr. Crazy on 14 Nov 2008 at 7:11 am #

    Lordy. “I’m a 33-year-old man” as if that means he could never possibly be a rude jerk? Seriously?

    I have to say, though, I probably would have just never responded to the follow-up question about the Jefferson biography, as you’d already (very nicely!) indicated that his level of informality was inappropriate, and you’d already (very nicely!) offered suggestions for pursuing his “hobby.” Your work there was TOTALLY done.

    God, to be honest, when I’ve had such queries from unknown persons about reading suggestions, I’m often a lot less nice than you were. In response to the first email, I’d probably have written….

    “Dear Someguy,
    Three good biographies with which you might start are x, y, and z. If you look these titles up in your library catalog and click through the library of congress subject heading, you will find others.

    Best,
    Prof. Historiann”

    And if there had been follow-up questions, I’d probably have ignored them. This probably means that I “will find that [I] shut out a lot of people in life by conducting [myself] in this manner,” which, to be honest, if it means shutting people out like this gem, seems like a bonus.

  9. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Dr. Crazy–you’re right. Another friend of mine said to me, “when will you learn not to be so nice to people?” My boundary from this point on shall be my “delete” button!

  10. Buzz on 14 Nov 2008 at 8:25 am #

    I have noticed that older students sometimes seem to want to treat faculty as colleagues of a sort–collaborators in a shared educational project. (I suspect this happens more to very young-looking faculty like myself.) Most of the older students are not like this and in fact have better manners than the 19-year-olds, thanks, I suppose, to their wisdom and real-world experience. But there are a few who seem to think that I should treat them as my peers because they are older than I am. This is less of a problem when I have them in class; in 500-level electrodynamics, even the most obtuse mature student quickly realizes how little they know of a subject where I am a expert. No, it’s the ones who e-mail me with random questions who project this feeling of age-derived entitlement.

  11. Erica on 14 Nov 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Just imagine if his love of history leads you to eventually take one of your classes :)

    There are many customs and practices and no single one is correct.

    As if you didn’t know, he’s wrong about that. Email requires the same formality as any written communication — just because there are some people who forward chain letters, or include long biblical quotations as a signature to work-related memos (pet peeve!), or type ENTIRELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS, doesn’t make those habits “correct.” Sloppy correspondence drives me up the wall.

    Even worse, in my opinion, is his complete inability to thank you for your time in helping an amateur who isn’t your student. He should have thanked in advance for you taking the time to help with his interest, should have thanked you for your recommendations before asking another question. “Never rude or inappropriate” is also wrong.

    But at least now he’s NET FAMOUS! Hehehe.

  12. squadratomagico on 14 Nov 2008 at 8:39 am #

    This is *very* similar to an email correspondence I had some years ago. It was the same thing: adult male, history hobbyist, searching for info. on early medieval migrations in order to better understand his genealogy, as I recall. He shot off the same sorts of brusque, demanding emails, with no salutations or explanations about his interests or background. When I called him on his rudeness, he had the same sort of response, implying that our mutual love of history should transcend any need for politeness! He added, too, that he was an extremely busy and efficient businessman who never worried about such niceties in his daily correspondences for work.

  13. GayProf on 14 Nov 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Based on his “interests,” it wouldn’t surprise me if he was a right-winger looking to “prove” the liberal bias of history departments or hoping your exchange would be evidence that we professional historians are always looking to “tear down” American heroes. By asking for titles and your thoughts, he might have had an agenda larger than self improvement. Than again, I am increasingly weary of random people who e-mail me.

    Regardless, kudos to you,for demanding professional etiquette. Universities need to regain certain levels of formality.

  14. Rose on 14 Nov 2008 at 9:07 am #

    I’d like to offer the minority opinion, if I might. You *did* fan this flame war a bit yourself, Historiann. I’m not suggesting you deserved this guy’s bile, but it might’ve been better just to leave well enough alone and not reprimand him a second time for his lack of proper address. It doesn’t seem as if he set out to insult you with his response about the “American Sphinx” text, but was simply following up on his previous message, assuming that the door to a two-way conversation had been opened.

    Granted, “Someguy” is 33 years old, so I agree that puts him beyond the typical motivation behind the lack of salutation in e-mails–undergraduate confusion (or ignorance) about how to address professors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered students (both in person and via e-mail) who address me as “Mrs. X,” or by my first and last name together (that’s the one that really gets me).

    When I ask about it, most students say they’ve gotten really mixed messages about that: this prof wants to be called “Dr.,” this one “Professor,” this one “Ms.,” and so forth…so, sometimes I think they’re actually *trying* to be polite by *not* including any salutation at all. Better that than to be shot down for saying the wrong thing.

    Again, this guy is old enough to know better…but I have to say that he was right in that your sarcasm was unwarranted. And it’s a little passive-aggressive, too, if I can be really honest. Why let little shit like this (and big shits like this guy) suck up your time and give this person the impression that you have nothing better to do than to engage with him in this kind of exchange?

  15. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 9:10 am #

    Well, I guess my opinion is that I made my boundaries clear in my first e-mails, and if people don’t want to have me correct their e-mail etiquette, they can either 1) take my advice, or 2) stop e-mailing me.

    I have corrected students’ e-mails in the past–for example, I inform them that I prefer not to be addressed by my first name–and they’ve responded politely and thanked me for my assistance. I see it as part of my instructional duty to, as GayProf says, uphold standards and set boundaries. I also have noticed that when students e-mail me and then I reply with a more formal e-mail, many students mirror that kind of reply.

    Finally–I don’t get the student frustration you report at having to remember that people want to be called by different names/titles. We have to memorize a whole lot more student names than students have to memorize Professor names. I make an effort to remember the students who prefer to be called by a nickname rather than their given name. For students, erring on the side of formality is always the best policy. (I can’t imagine rebuking a student for calling me Dr. instead of Professor, or vice-versa. Are people that picky?)

  16. historymaven on 14 Nov 2008 at 9:37 am #

    At my state university email is the official form of communication. Faculty have some authority, then, in engaging students in lessons of formal correspondence/communication in email exchanges.

    As you well know, being employed at a state university, however, means that members of the public (whether enrolled at said university or not) think of the faculty as “answer people.” (I suspect it may be true of private universities as well, but I’ve no firsthand knowledge of this.) I’ve received many inquiries from high school students working on History Day projects (which I love), from collectors seeking evaluation of their latest finds (ethically, I cannot comply with these requests), and the like. I created for my department a “history@” email account for such inquiries, and it has worked to channel such inquiries away from faculty accounts and to gather together a set of examples with which the department may make policy or create standard answers.

    Sadly, I’ve also received inquiries from students at other area universities seeking answers to their coursework. One telephoned me for some “information” and after three or four minutes I realized that he was completing coursework. I looked at the number displayed on my telephone and realized he was likely a student at a neighboring university. When I asked him about this, and stated that it wasn’t my responsibility to undertake his coursework, he stated “Don’t you want me to learn? What kind of TEACHER (his emphasis) are you?”

    In short, I called his bluff, and I think in some way, Historiann, you did the same with your email correspondent–and in these instances it’s not about the study of history but about professionalism and the assumption of another’s status. No matter how old I get, male students who are corrected, whose ideas are challenged, or whose egos are in some way bruised wish to achieve their position in the perceived gender hierarchy. Correcting such a student in class means that that student will contact me within a day with some sort of “fun fact” that he didn’t think I knew. Or I will be dressed down for having the audacity to point out problems or bad behavior.

    One older student followed me out of class and spent 10 minutes in a red-faced yelling display when I told him, five minutes after class had begun and he had not refrained from talking with another student, class had started. After his tirade, on full view to students and other professors, I said “You were disrupting the class. If you have a problem with my conduct of this course, let me take you to the dean’s office for a formal complaint.” There and then I learned that invoking a (masculine) authority is often the only way these students–adults all–stop bad behaviors. More’s the pity.

    I’ve found that male students beyond the “typical” age range for undergraduates have more trouble with female faculty having authority and knowledge.

  17. Erica on 14 Nov 2008 at 9:42 am #

    I have had teachers who insisted on Professor instead of Doctor. Never in a particularly angry way, just “Call me Professor” said with a smile. I’d advise students to stick with Doctor or Professor as a default. Better to apologize for being overly formal than apologize for not using the title one deserves.

    I think a problem that many back-to-school students may have is the level of formality in the modern workplace. Everybody uses first names, you figure out who to treat with respect based on their seniority level (strongly correlated to age), and email correspondence is comical in its informality. In academia, professors are of many different ages and it’s hard to shift back to acting like a respectful young adult when you’ve had years of experience being an adult yourself. (Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make an effort, though.)

  18. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 9:54 am #

    My problem wasn’t the status issue at all, it was the shocking informality of addressing an e-mail to someone 1) whom he didn’t know at all, and 2) from whom he was asking a favor. Erica’s and historymaven’s comments about the modern workplace and returning male students are food for thought, as are Squadratomagico’s experience with a “buff.” In my workplace, I sometimes answer e-mails with a quick one or two lines and my initials, but that’s with people I know and work with. I’ve also fielded lots of questions from people outside the university, and they’ve been very polite and grateful for my assistance. (I have rebuffed the “do my homework for me” questions with just a book suggestion, however.)

    Pointing out to students that they’re likelier to get a better and friendlier response if they introduce themselves, explain their interests, and at least in the first contact, include a salutation and a signature seems to be doing them a favor. If they don’t want the lesson, that’s fine–don’t write back!

  19. Dr. Crazy on 14 Nov 2008 at 10:07 am #

    To pick up on the last part of your comment back to Rose, Historiann, I’ve only noticed students being frustrated or confused about what to address me as a direct result of those students (mostly male) not wanting to grant me actual professorial authority. It’s not that they are so dumb that they can’t remember what I prefer to be called, that I don’t communicate clearly what I prefer to be called, that my university doesn’t have a culture in which all professors are addressed formally, or that they are so clueless that they don’t know what professors should be called. They without fail address my male colleagues appropriately if not with more deference than is necessary (calling male grad student adjuncts Dr. So-and-So for example, while they insist on calling me Miss Crazy or Firstname). Nor is it that they fear that they will incur my wrath because they call me the wrong thing, for typically I nicely correct these students the first time. When it continues, and it often does, it’s a subtle (or not-so subtle) way of putting me in my place, i.e., I don’t get the privilege of being addressed as Prof. or Dr. Crazy because I’m young (for a professor) and female.

    What I’m describing here isn’t a first-semester student mistake of calling me “Mrs. Crazy” because that’s what they’re used to calling teachers. I’m describing a consistent lack of respect that some students will not stop unless one calls them on it repeatedly, sternly, and directly.

    That said, when it comes to random emails from strangers, I’m a fan of the pleasant, formal, curt reply and then just never responding to them again. While it’s my instructional duty to uphold standards and set boundaries, life’s too short to do so for any and all people with whom I come into contact. So while I agree that letting the follow-up email go would probably have been the move I’d have made, I don’t think there was a thing in the world wrong with Historiann’s response. He emailed her from out of the blue without explaining who he was, he did so disrespectfully and continued to be disrespectful after being nicely corrected, and he knew that he was emailing a person in a position of greater authority than his own. The fact of the matter is, this student, regardless of his age, was out of line. Maybe sarcasm wasn’t the best response, but in this case it seems to have been an effective one, and not without warrant.

  20. Historiann on 14 Nov 2008 at 10:19 am #

    See the update above–the Chair of Philosophy can relate, and she is going to take action.

  21. Roxie on 14 Nov 2008 at 11:00 am #

    Meanwhile, over in the English department, we field steady streams of grammar questions from strangers and complaints from semi-literate freshmen that the D they got on their paper about Jane Austin or Virginia Wolf was due to a difference of opinion. Sigh. Perhaps Mrs. Emily Dickenson put it best: “Much madness is divinest sense . . . . “

  22. Joe the Plumber on 14 Nov 2008 at 11:27 am #

    Dearest Historiann -

    The absence of saluations and closings in the “comments” section makes me very sad.

    I remain your most humble and obedient servant,

    Joe the Plumber

  23. hysperia on 14 Nov 2008 at 11:38 am #

    YOU weren’t very “personable” in your response? Gimme a BREAK! I guess you’re absolutely heartbroken that he won’t recommend you to other students, right? Arrrgghhh. Come one now, thirty-three-year old men don’t owe anything to a female Prof do they? Arrrghhh.

  24. Susan on 14 Nov 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    Historiann, you are much much much too nice. (I’ve long thought so :) )
    But I think the age thing is important — when working with adult students, they have a lot of trouble with the boundaries. THey think, I’m an adult like you — so? And of course, as a woman, you should serve men….

  25. nicole on 14 Nov 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    Genius! An etiquette book- that would have been hilarious!

  26. Buzz on 14 Nov 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    On the subject of what students call their professors, it seems to be standard practice here for the undergraduate students to ask their instructor in the first or second class what the instructor wishes to be called. I think this is a pretty good tradition to establish; it ensures that any confusion on this point is resolved explicitly early on. However, sometimes the way the students ask betrays their ignorance: I was asked by one sophomore whether I, the professor, had a Ph.D.; I replied, “Of course,” and asked why they were asking; the student said he wanted to know whether he was supposed to call be “Doctor” or not.

  27. Dave on 14 Nov 2008 at 4:46 pm #

    I agree that was rude and a jerk, but it seems a stretch to read anything sexist into his comments.

  28. Clio Bluestocking on 14 Nov 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    I’ve noticed the same thing that Buzz has: some older (as in about my age and older) students, especially those who have a hobbist’s interest in history, tend to view our relationship as one of peers. While I’m perfectly happy to consider us peers should we bump into each other at the grocery store or the gym (god forbid!), within the context of our classroom, we are decidedly NOT peers. I’ve also noticed that when thes efforts to undermine my authority in the subject fail, these same students will then attempt to dismiss me based on some other personal trait — youth (god love ‘em, but I’m 41), two X chromosomes, skin color, sexual orientation, supposed sexual orientation, lack of familiarity with the “real world,” whatever — to undercut my authority in the subject. I have two right now — in the same class, no less — who have consistently challenged my authority in these ways, and often outright insulted me.

    Getting back to your situation: the guy was a jerk. He solicited your advice with a complete sense of entitlement to be served and a complete lack of awareness that you were doing him a HUGE favor in even answering him in the first place. You aren’t a reference desk, ferchrissakes! A simple “Dear Historiann, I apologize for any disrespect. Thank you for helping me with this” on his part would have sufficed instead of his “how dare you instruct me, you servant!” Really, what an ass.

  29. pz on 14 Nov 2008 at 8:50 pm #

    I’ve had serious complaints about my informality on e-mail. No salutation, no good-bye, no anything … I am so used to the 80s and the 90s on e-mail that I send messages saying things like “yes. good job. see you Monday at 11.” and it is considered offensive.

  30. Dr. Crazy on 14 Nov 2008 at 10:14 pm #

    It became sexist the moment that he asserted that he was a “33-year-old man” who doesn’t need to be told how to conduct himself by woman, whom he approached for advice because she’s an expert in the field of his “hobby.” Before that, Dave, you’re right: he was just rude. But the minute he told Historiann, who is an expert in the field, that she can’t set boundaries because he’s a man and he knows better and didn’t “intend” to be an asshole, that’s sexism. And then he continued to be sexist when he asserted that he “wasn’t asking her to have lunch with him” – as if the only reason she could object to rude behavior was if he were asking her on a date. Because, you know, women should be treated like *ladies.* There’s a reason that all of the women who’ve responded here reacted to this interchange as sexist: it’s because we get this sort of shit regularly. Are we all hysterical women who are overreacting? Really?

  31. DV on 14 Nov 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    While I would have dropped him at the Spinx question, I am interested to see where this has gone. I wonder if his adviser is male or female and if s/he will admonish him. If so, his notions of women faculty could be shaken to the core (as in, that person has the authority to reach my adviser?!). Here’s hoping!

  32. K.N. on 15 Nov 2008 at 1:53 am #

    Can I toss a demerit or two on the desk of your chair? (Assuming the student’s claim is true, of course.) I get ever so slightly miffed when a student contacts me (via email or otherwise) because a colleague has sent him/her my way without giving me a heads up. Grrr. The least the chair could have done was to cc you into the email. He shouldn’t volunteer your professional services without at least letting you know he’s doing it!

    I give the student some props for signing his name. I get at least one email every couple of weeks from a student with no name. (Sadly, no salutation is almost a given.) The student assumes that I can figure out his/her identity by the “ab1234@potemkinU.edu” return address.

    Oh, and then there’s the “get back to me ASAP.” I’ve actually come to see that they have no earthly clue how inappropriate this is. First, the only person who can issue the “get back to me” command is my wife. Second, I’m not sure if they even know what ASAP really means. I think what they are looking for is an immediate response, but immediately is not ASAP. Such subtlety is often lost on them when I point it out.

  33. Dance on 15 Nov 2008 at 8:06 am #

    I think I would have come down harder at the beginning. Eg, just “who are you?” and then be all educational about how to contact a stranger, rather than waiting for repeated offenses or being politely indirect. Because, yes, that type of education IS part of our job.

    But I have to say that my view is that once an ongoing conversation has been established, especially if there are multiple messages on the same day, I don’t think a salutation everytime is necessary.

  34. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 8:12 am #

    K.N.–my Chair did give me a heads-up, as I recall. He did nothing wrong–and I’ve answered lots of questions for people sent along by the front office or the Chair who are perfectly polite. My Chair has apologized to me that Someguy was such a jerk, but of course, that’s not his responsibility!

    And, Dr. Crazy–thanks for your explication du texte. (Yeah, what was that about lunch? I’ve blocked most of the specifics out of my memory because they were so disturbing. Very weird!) I would also add that the majority of the commenters here are women (although their names may not reveal themselves as such), and there are so many similar stories here and that every woman faculty member I know can tell. If this were an isolated incident, and not part of a larger pattern, then I’d be willing to go along with Dave, but clearly it’s not. Women faculty, and male faculty who aren’t identifiably U.S.-born, white, and apparently heterosexual, are always subject to more student scrutiny, commentary, and even disrespect and abuse. Students feel empowered to communicate with women, non-white, and foreign-born faculty in ways they would never with other faculty.

    And, DV–we’ll see what I hear from the Philosophy chair (or from Someguy, although I really don’t want to hear from him again.)

  35. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 8:15 am #

    And, Dance: perhaps you’re right that I should have been blunter. Apparently, the politesse and subtlety of my first rebuke escaped him. And, this correspondence was not all on one day–it was attenuated over the course of the week.

  36. A Cautionary Tale for Women in Academia | The Global Sociology Blog on 15 Nov 2008 at 9:27 am #

    [...] And I’m sure some of you have had this happen to you already… Just go read Historiann’s post (and bookmark her blog or subscribe to it while you’re at it). addthis_url = [...]

  37. Todd O. on 15 Nov 2008 at 11:01 am #

    Teaching the “millennials” civility and common courtesy is an uphill and bloody battle. Excuse the masculinist metaphor.

  38. Todd O. on 15 Nov 2008 at 11:07 am #

    Oops. I was skimming and didn’t notice that he was 33 years old. His behavior was so typical of my students that I jumped to a conclusion. Still, teaching millennials civility and common courtesy is an uphill and bloody battle.

    FWIW, I’m a male prof in the social sciences in my late 30s. Older men in my classroom also interact with me like a colleague or peer and are often threatened by my position in the classroom and/or my knowledge. I think part of it is the nature of being in the social sciences: People think they already know their own society perfectly well and so are already experts and there’s nothing new to learn.

  39. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 11:40 am #

    Hi Todd O.–thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, I too assumed he was much younger, and thought that perhaps his rudeness sprang from ignorance. But no, he’s got a clear commitment to being an a$$hat.

    I think the age thing is operative for both male and female faculty. I’m only a few (well, seven) years older than Someguy, but he had never met me and didn’t know if I was 30, 50, or 70. Maybe the point isn’t that he assumed we were close in age, but rather since there are other people in their early and mid-thirties on the faculty, that these students try to align themselves with faculty rather than with undergraduate students.

    But, I have to say: I’ve never, ever been contacted by a peer or fellow professional in that manner. We are a very (sometimes oppressively) polite bunch, I think, and even peers or seniors will call me “Professor Historiann” or “Dr. Historiann” in the initial contact, at least.

  40. chloe on 15 Nov 2008 at 11:47 am #

    THANKS FOR THE BLOG POSTING!
    This happens to me too, all the time, and am always told I am “not nice”
    arg!
    They also walk into my office without knocking, ask me questions, without introducing themselves, etcetcetc…
    thanks thanks thanks, it helps my own venting.

  41. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    Chloe–I feel your pain. It’s OK not to be nice. You can also let them know that you’re not their big sister or their mother. You may want to start documenting these things when they happen, so as to arm yourself against complaints of your “meanness” in your student evaluations. I don’t know if our male colleagues understand the impositions and the expectations that are laid on faculty women.

  42. DeniseB on 15 Nov 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    It’s always polite to call people what they prefer to be called. When in doubt, ask. How hard is that?

  43. Redstar on 15 Nov 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    Found you via Anglachel.

    I’m a 33 yr old PhD student, and I’m floored that this guy would address you this way. Not only in lacking a salutation, but in not thanking you profusely for your time in the initial email, and asking for your input at your leisure, etc. etc. I read posts like this from faculty from time to time, and I’m always blown away by my student peers. Who are these people? (Probably the same ones who drive me nuts in classes when they say patronizing things like “urban planning” is about “helping” people. Excuse me???)

    My boyfriend is a 38-yr old PhD student who plans to teach when he’s done. I have been reading him excerpts from this thread so he knows what he’s up against.

    Unbelievable!!

  44. Redstar on 15 Nov 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    PS: I also can’t get over how quickly and aggressively he dressed you down. What.an.asshole. Entitled, much?

  45. Jeremy Young on 15 Nov 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    The dude was an asshole, and I agree with your interpretation for the most part, but I do have to introduce a note of dissent into the “e-mail etiquette” discussion. None of the professors I’ve worked directly with as an advisor, quasi-advisor, or committee member — say, eight in total — has EVER used a salutation when addressing me. At least two of them, including the one I’m grading for now, never sign their name either. I almost always do the full workup (salutation, content, signature) when responding to their e-mails, but after getting one-liners from them in response over a dozen times, it begins to get rather silly.

    Just because e-mail is now as formal as print communication, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the conventions are the same. In my experience they have not been. This fellow was exceptionally rude and offensive to you, particularly in his later comments, but as far as violating some general principle of e-mail etiquette, I’m not convinced he did.

  46. DG on 15 Nov 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    I arrived here via a link from Anglachel. I’m going to dissent from the other replies a little bit. I work in an IT department but most of my colleagues outside the department are journalists or researchers, and it is typical to receive brusque emails from any of them with requests, without any introduction or salutation. Particularly from anyone in IT, and this was the case before I knew any of them well.

    I know that’s not done in many fields in academia – I spent several years as a humanities graduate student – but it may well be the typical correspondence this man has with others in his field. I quickly got in the habit of firing off messages that are very direct and to the point, no salutation, nothing. In fact, I came to see this, within my organization, as the more polite approach – everyone gets loads of messages so it is appreciated if you get to the point as fast as possible.

    In this case, I agree that this man would have done better to introduce himself, but he may have assumed that having already contacted your department chair, you were expecting his message. And apparently after the first exchange, having apologized for the informality, he thinks it is appropriate to reply with another concise message.

    The whole thing reads to me like a clash in two different styles of communication, in which both parties believe they are in the right.. and one party (the man) just can’t let go and goes completely over the line. It seems that from your point of view, the initial request was impolite, and following up without adding a salutation was impolite. From his point of view, the “Do I know you?” was rather brusque and surprising, and the reference to text-messaging (implying he must be a 20 year old undergrad), and the second request that he include a salutation was reintroducing a conflict that he thought had been defused by his apology. That said, he’s paid no attention to the difference in status here, and having ignored that, gets completely rude and obnoxious, especially in his last reply.

    A student telling a professor, in any field, what his or her “duty” is, is out of bounds. And to lecture you on how to conduct yourself in personal and professional relationships is even further out of bounds. IMHO, you did him a favor in contacting his department, because if he wants an academic career he’s going to be well served by learning a good lesson here. Maybe he’ll be too pigheaded to recognize that and will brush off whatever his department tells him (I used to do that – much to my regret).

    As far as gender goes, at first I thought both of you would’ve had a better exchange if there was more of a sense of humor and the ability to back off of confrontation – but it’s always the woman who’s expected to develop that in a conflict, isn’t it? No doubt.

  47. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Welcome, Anglachel readers, one and all.

    I’m not arguing here (or anywhere) that there is only one “correct” e-mail style–indeed, among coworkers and friends, we frequently e-mail back and forth without salutations or signatures. My point here is that I have the right to set boundaries for contact with strangers (even Baa Ram U. students) asking for favors. I may be completely off-base and unreasonable (although given the comments here from other academics, I don’t think so), but even if I am, I am permitted to set my own boundaries and rules for communication.

    If someone doesn’t like it, then ze can go find another expert in early American history with whom to correspond. But it is my right to set the limits, and that’s what Someguy just doesn’t get, in large part because of his sex-induced and perhaps age-induced sense of entitlement.

  48. Jeremy Young on 15 Nov 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    Historiann, agreed without reservation.

  49. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks, Jeremy! And, by the way, I think your professors are rude to write missives as you report. (I’ve never seen it among fellow faculty myself, but perhaps some faculty do that as an exercise in hierarchy.) I’m democratic: I expect more formality from strangers and students, but I absolutely return it.

  50. churl on 15 Nov 2008 at 4:27 pm #

    I’ve dealt with much ruder students– face to face. I don’t think there is much sexual contempt at play; it’s been my 30+ years experience with students from high school through graduate school that about a third of them hold any teacher in contempt, irregardless of sex. After all, “I pay your salary” and “Those who can, do…” blah blah.

  51. Indyanna on 15 Nov 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    On the age thing, I was in an extended summer seminar some years back, directed by a let’s say hands on, take charge and reasonably senior prof. The members were almost evenly stratified into young and recent Ph.Ds, early mid-career people, and several people horizontal with or even above the director in seniority, but not in distinguished accomplishment. And there were clear cut patterns in the ease with which colloquiality and deference to the authority structure of the seminar were intermixed. The very juniors went reflexively into “how you react to your advisor” mode. The seniors found the deference part very challenging. The intermedios, myself included, probably experienced the least status-related stress. None of these particulars specifically matches the subject of this thread, but yeah, age and seniority do function as behavioral triggers in these kinds of situations. As obviously do gender and other markers of identity.

  52. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 4:30 pm #

    It’s not “sexual contempt” at play, it’s gender privilege, churl. Entitled students plague us all, but there is no question that women are imposed upon much more often and in more disturbing ways than male faculty are. That is my experience, and that of most of the female commenters here, as well as the experience of women academics I know outside of the non-peer reviewed internets.

  53. hysperia on 15 Nov 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    I’m a little surprised by how “peeved” I have become over this issue and a (very) few of the comments. I remember taking this kind of baloney from students, including females (women can be sexist too, right?) and then having male colleagues try to convince me that it was no different than what they often experienced from the rude youngsters. I’m quite aware that there are many things that can put a professor in a position where they may receive more than the ordinary amount of contempt from students, as you have noted Historiann. Some students are just contemptuous. But why is it that some men will not respect you (us) enough to believe that you (we) just might be the best interpreters of our own experience? Do we suddenly become irrational or unintelligent when it comes to our own, every day, well documented by many, many others over a great deal of time reality? I’ve been associated with the academy in one way or another for thirty-six years and I’ve heard this kind of story so often, my ears ache thinking about it. It doesn’t really matter that some of us have different “ettiquette” about e-mails, does it? You told the guy what you expected and he utterly failed to NOTICE? And then blamed you, in quite sexist terms, for the failure of his own communication with you. If someone tells me how they want to be addressed, I can’t think why I would ignore the request unless I had no interest in giving that person one small bit of respect. But I would also NOT continue to expect anything from that person. If he didn’t want to address you as you asked, all he needed to do was to LEAVE YOU ALONE.

    And now, all the instances in which I, or someone I knew, was treated in this demeaning fashion are flooding in. Has anyone written a book, specifically about this, Professor Historiann?

    In solidarity,
    hysperia

  54. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Hysperia, I get the impression that a lot of people are suffering flashbacks because of this post. I’m sorry!

    My hope is that female faculty members will see their experiences reflected here and affirmed by others, and that male faculty will read through the comments and see how utterly mundane this kind of experience is for women faculty. It goes beyond the usual sense of student entitlement–the ONLY thing this guy knew (or knows, or thinks he knows) about me is my sex. He doesn’t know what I look like, how old I am, my status (gay or straight, single or unattached). But there are a lot of assumptions about our interaction embedded in his reply (as Dr. Crazy so astutely pointed out, and as I would prefer to ignore!)

    Ick, double-ick, and triple ick with hot fudge and salted pecans on top. (Why couldn’t I get a job teaching at a women’s college?)

    I don’t know if anyone has written about this–perhaps my learned and widely-read reading audience will know? Most of the advice for academic women is along the lines of Ms. Mentor, who is all well and good, but who isn’t super helpful when one finds oneself in a real jam. Ms. Mentor writes as though any intrepid individual can finesse her way out of problems and get to the top. I know that’s how you sell advice books, but I also know (from bitter experience) that most problems are not so easy nor so clear-cut.

  55. Suzie on 15 Nov 2008 at 9:59 pm #

    I’ve been reading this thread with great interest. I never knew it was etiquette to use a salutation and signature in emails. When people have written that way to me, I thought it was some quaint holdover from the days of letter-writing.

    When I read DG’s comment, I realized why I had that interpretation. My background is journalism, where emails are supposed to be direct and concise. This post has educated me about what people in other professions may expect.

  56. Historiann on 15 Nov 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    Suzie, thanks for stopping by to comment again. The issue really is one of familiarity and context. I don’t mind informal, brief, direct e-mails from friends, family, and regular correspondents. But for complete strangers, I need more context and an introduction. It will make a difference which books I recommend to a correspondent, depdending on if one is an eighth grader, an undergraduate student, a graduate student, or a history “buff” in the community. For his own good, I needed to know where Someguy was coming from. (And boy howdy did I ever get that, eventually!)

    However, I think it’s the standard practice among people in academia to send e-mails that start with a salutation, proceed to the business at hand in clearly written sentences and paragraphs, and then conclude with a signature. (At least that’s how they do it where I work, and I work in the Western U.S., which is not a place that is really hung up on rigid etiquette or dress codes, etc., to say the least!)

  57. Deborah Judge on 16 Nov 2008 at 7:48 am #

    Gr. I just went through instructing a student that he should *never* use Mrs. to address his female professors. Fortunately he took it. But my personal favorite: I’m the VP of a major professional society and when I issued a call for papers I also invited people to attend a pre-conference workshop by RSVP. And it was pretty clear, RSVP to Dr. Judge, VP. I got the following response:

    Dear Miss [Judge],

    I would like to attend the workshop. Please send me a reminder closer to the date.

    Sincerely,

    [asshole]

    Gr. Send you a reminder? Do you normally ask senior faculty to be your personal assistants? And he doesn’t even have the excuse of being an undergrad.

  58. Historiann on 16 Nov 2008 at 8:24 am #

    Ha! I’m laughing through my tears about that one, Deborah. I *so* feel your rage!

    Your experience intersects with something I’ve been thinking about posting on, which is the transformation of the value of work when women are doing the work. Just to take your case as an example, the work you’ve done on behalf of your professional society becomes merely secretarial because you, a female body, is doing the work, whereas a male VP doing that work would be
    evidence of his stature and outsized influence in the field, and correspondents would not dare to ask him to perform secretarial duties. (And moreover, his work might be valued more highly and compensated as such in his annual salary exercise…)

    I think this is something that women faculty need to think about when it comes to working for professional socieites. I’ve noticed in recent years that the American Historical Association presidency has gone to women increasingly. On the one hand, this is all to the good. On the other hand, is this the new way that gender hierarchies will manifest themselves? (After all, being president of the AHA is “only service,” not research…) I need to think about this some more.

  59. nicolec on 16 Nov 2008 at 11:47 am #

    Thank you hysperia for noting that Historiann isn’t simply misreading this guy- I have no doubt that part of his treatment of Historiann is due to the fact that she is a female.
    I’d also like to note that Historiann isn’t a stuffy etiquette Nazi- she asked him to address her in a certain way and he refused. I’m a high school teacher and given the amount of time I spend with young people and the fact that I am quite young myself, students will often address me with informal titles (ie: dude, homie, missus *without my surname* etc) I then tell them what they may call me and we move on. Even though I have colleagues who are fine being called any/all of these, would anyone fault me for setting MY boundaries? Further, once I’ve gotten to know a student and we’ve developed a working relationship I’ll relax these boundaries a bit, but I still insist on a certain professional distance. Again, I can’t imagine being told that this is unreasonable just because other teachers don’t do the same. Historiann’s boundaries may not be the same as everyone’s (as many of noted here), but once she has asked that HER boundaries be respected there is no excuse- particularly since he was asking her for a favor.

  60. Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 18 Nov 2008 at 7:40 am #

    [...] Wow–Someguy really gets around.  Check out this post at Female Science Professor–it’s like the live-action version of the folie-a-deux e-mail exchange with the male studentwho thought he was entitled to treat me like teh Google (h/t Erica): I was sitting at my desk, and my office door was open, as it almost always is when I am in my office. A young man walked into my office and started talking to me, without any introduction. My first thought was that perhaps I am losing my mind faster than I think I might be — perhaps I have met this person and just don’t remember? Perhaps I am supposed to know this person? But no, it became apparent during the conversation that we have not met before. [...]

  61. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » This Sounds Awfully Familiar! on 19 Nov 2008 at 7:38 am #

    [...] Historiann has a post up about an e-mail exchange wherein a complete stranger demands her assistance, and is then very rude to her. Been there far too many times. A couple of times each week I get calls and e-mails from people asking for free legal advice or representation, and when I refuse to provide same, a tirade. Most are random strangers, but others are part of the University committee. Many angrily claim that they were given my name by someone who promised I would help them- isn’t “public service” my job? And of course it is, at least partly, but I get to choose the kind of public service I want to do, and helping nasty jerks with legal problems isn’t too high up on the list. [...]

  62. Sisters in Arms roundup: P.O.W.s unite, yee-haw! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 19 Nov 2008 at 9:48 am #

    [...] bloggers who are sisters in outrage (just in case you haven’t seen them, check out “Ummm, you e-mailed *me* for advice, remember?“ and, ”Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn,” in case you [...]

  63. Jonathan on 19 Nov 2008 at 10:26 am #

    Yes, this is absurdly rude behavior on his part. I don’t know that I’d attribute it to anything to do with your gender, though; I (am male and) have had students write to me in that sort of surprisingly informal way, too. Then again, I’m also pretty young; maybe that’s relevantly similar, in the minds of such assholeish students.

  64. Courtney on 19 Nov 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    My husband, a math professor, sometimes gets very informal emails from strangers asking off-the-wall questions that often have nothing to do with math. He usually just deletes them.

    One guy emailed him asking for help determining what Myers-Brigg profile a typical math major is, and my husband did not respond (the guy should really be asking a psychologist). A week later, he emailed my husband again, telling him ‘thanks for nothing’ and then cursing him out.

    I agree with you that when using email for business, or to communicate with strangers, it’s much better to write it formally, as one would write a letter. Anything less is rude. People like this often get hostile when confronted with their rudeness because they are either embarrassed or have an entitlement complex.

  65. gail on 19 Nov 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    I thought your first reply to the example presented was quite rude.

    From another perspective, when attending college, I thought most professors were very rude. Most of these were men so perhaps that passes as the norm.

    Perhaps emailing insults back and forth will be more rewarding than keeping a student waiting for 45 minutes outside the office during one of the few open office periods while carrying an obviously personal conversation with someone who is not a student.

    As you see, I do not have fond memories of the courtesy of professors.

  66. Historiann on 19 Nov 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    Well Gail, when someone e-mails you for professional advice without introducing himself or explaining himself, I think you’re entitled to answer him any damn way you please. I’m sorry if you believe you were maltreated in college, but that doesn’t mean that students aren’t presumptuous about faculty women’s time and attention now.

  67. gail on 20 Nov 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    Ah, yes. If they’re rude then that is reason enough to be rude yourself. I certainly have fallen into that mode myself but I don’t think that I’m somehow entitled to be rude. Perhaps it’s part of the faculty mind?

  68. Lady Prof on 20 Nov 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    I applaud Historiann’s handling of the encounter, and her interpretation of it too. I myself would probably ignore an e-mail message like the one she received, although I sometimes write back “Do I know you?,” sans signature and salutation when my correspondent omitted them.

  69. Historiann on 21 Nov 2008 at 5:29 am #

    Thanks, Lady Prof. I suppose I should have just hit the “delete” button instead of “being rude” and trying to answer the student’s question. What a terrible, terrible person I am, actually trying to help while also instructing someone in how to conduct professional correspondence!

  70. gail on 21 Nov 2008 at 10:22 am #

    Is that the choice? Being rude OR ignoring a request for assistance that is presented in an ‘unacceptable’ format due to its lack of formality (and reverence?)?

    I’m sure some of my reaction to this comes from working many years in casual technically oriented environments.

    I do understand that in some circumstances the lack of key words or phrases can signal a deliberate lack of respect.

    When I moved back to the US in the early 70′s after living in a very formal, stratified society for 3 years, the fact that almost everywhere I went everyone, from an entry clerk to doctors and highest managers, assumed they could use my first name without even asking. It was quite a shock, not quite the cultural shock I expected after only three years absense. If may sound like something inconsequential now but that automatic use of my first name signaled ‘lack of respect’ though the intent, in most cases, was far different.

    I still think your first reply to the requester was rude. I think rudeness is a choice (one I don’t claim to be innocent of) and not an entitlement. The alternative to rudeness is not automatic silence nor compliance.

  71. olga the bomb thrower on 21 Nov 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    As adjunct faculty, I am very careful of my position as the university denigrates us with pay and sharing an office with 8 people and 1 desk. Standards of behavior are posted in my syllabus and include my right to fail anyone who doesn’t follow them. I wouldn’t have answered the guy after the first reply because he assumes he is more important than you and that he is entitled to your time. That said, I am also available to my students when they need me via email and by phone between regular hours. I seldom comment on the appropriateness of the communication. In the future, I will post “Rules for email communication” as well. They are so slack with spelling and punctuation that it constantly irritates me. Since I teach writing, It is probably my responsibility to instruct them in this genre as well. Thanks for the needed addition to my curriculum.

  72. Historiann on 21 Nov 2008 at 6:25 pm #

    Thanks, Olga–you’d be doing your students a favor if you did instruct them a bit. In my experience, until this guy, I’ve never had a complaint that I asked a student not to call my by my first name, or corrected them on their note. They usually apologize–at least over the e-mail. They may have had their own other opinions which they didn’t share with me, which is their right, and if so I appreciate greatly that they didn’t share these other opinions with me. As you note, it’s all about setting the boundaries and enforcing them, isn’t it?

    The working conditions you describe are appalling. I’m very sorry. Is there an Adjunct Council or some organization at your university that you could appeal to for some assistance? This is not to excuse the department you’re working for, but sometimes they respond to some friendly requests and a kick in the pants.

  73. still a student on 22 Nov 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    Strange. Typically, when I write emails to professors, I start off as formally as possible (irregardless of gender :P ). If the professor then responds without a salutation, or type in all lowercase, or what have you, then I assume the bar has been lowered, and don’t necessarily reply with all the formal flourishes. Someguy has it backasswards – it does seem very entitled and rude.

  74. inchoate » to the letter on 24 Nov 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    [...] are receptive to this type of writing. In fact, Historiann’s experience was downright awful. The exchange that really amuses me is Thank you for responding, but at the same time it is not [...]

  75. Vidi « Archaeoastronomy on 04 Dec 2008 at 2:07 pm #

    [...] Ummm, you e-mailed *me* for advice, remember? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to th… This is the kind of thing that academic blogs do really well. This wouldn’t make an academic journal or conference paper, but it is important. Historiann shows what some female academics have to put up with. [...]

  76. I can haz homework assignment? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 09 Aug 2009 at 8:16 am #

    [...] some of you regular readers may remember, I had a strange encounter of the e-mail variety last fall when I kindly answered one of these requests from out of the blue.)  Have you heard from graduate students with requests for your biography?  Is this a new kind of [...]

  77. We get letters. . . some we can do without. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 25 Jan 2010 at 6:29 am #

    [...] to e-mail them, instead of reading their books.)  From now on, the delete key will be my style.  No good deed goes unpunished, right?  (I wonder:  do physics or chemistry proffies get e-mails like this–or are high school [...]

  78. High school student: U R doin’ it rite! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 03 Apr 2010 at 7:33 am #

    [...] recall, we’ve already covered how not to ask strangers for help, high school edition here and grad school edition here and [...]

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