Instructors urge students to use judgment with e-mails

Some University instructors said students should not rely on e-mail alone.

by Jeannine Aquino

College students send e-mails all the time – morning, noon and night.

Whether it’s an invitation between friends to eat at Applebee’s or a plea for help from a professor the night before a midterm, e-mail often is students’ primary form of communication.

However, some students might be using e-mail a little too carelessly, at least when it comes to communicating with their professors.

“Sometimes the proper care is not taken to writing a message,” said Jeffrey Roberts, chairman of the chemistry department. “I, and many of my colleagues, feel it’s easy to misunderstand an e-mail message.”

Roberts said students sometimes forget professors are juggling teaching and research. Many students forget to properly identify themselves and what class they have a question about, he said.

Also, Roberts said, many of his colleagues do not like receiving e-mails asking for copies of their notes if the student skipped class or asking questions to answers that could easily be found in the syllabus.

“Something that irks me and many of my colleagues are questions like: Is this information important? Do I need to know it for the test? Or questions that imply that the exam is a game that needs to be worked around,” Roberts said.

However, Roberts stressed these problems usually only come from a few people in class.

“Most students use (e-mail) as a valuable time-saving tool,” he said.

Kara Hedlund, a global studies and communications studies senior, said she uses e-mail because it’s more convenient than meeting face-to-face.

“All professors are accessible through office hours, but in the event that doesn’t work for people’s schedules, e-mail makes them more accessible within their personal schedules,” she said.

Edward Schiappa, department chairman of communications studies, agreed.

“I think for students who are a little timid or who are working and don’t have time to go to office hours, (e-mail) absolutely increases access, and I think that’s great,” Schiappa said.

However, Luke Lindley, a first-year medical student, said that while e-mail makes professors more accessible, students should be careful not to overuse it.

“If a professor is willing to make himself available, students have the responsibility to not abuse that privilege,” he said. “Students should realize that just because it’s easy to send out an e-mail to a professor, doesn’t mean they should.”

Students, he said, should realize professors are extremely busy, and that they sometimes can’t respond to e-mails immediately.

“Students should respect (professors’) time,” Lindley said. “Professors are valuable resources, and as such, they should be used but not abused.”

Despite the ease offered by e-mail, faculty members agree the best form of communication is in-person meetings.

“E-mail is good for administration reasons,” said Chuck Swanson, a computer science teaching specialist. “When it comes to the course content, like a concept that needs to be explained, I think verbal communication is better than e-mail.”

Roberts said that even though e-mail is a valuable form of correspondence, it’s sometimes easier to explain concepts when the student is there physically.

“It’s much easier to explain things when they’re in front of me. I can watch their response and monitor their body language,” he said. “To the extent that students use e-mail to substitute for talking to the professor, I think they’re missing out on an educational opportunity.”