Spring-Serenity Duvall, who teaches at Winston-Salem’s Salem College:
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. In a fit of self-preservation, I decided: no more. This is where I make my stand!The only e-mails Duvall will countenance are those requesting face-to-face meetings outside of office hours. She reports wonderful results. But I wonder: the rhetoric of “assault” and “self-preservation” feels a tad melodramatic. And, yes, “inappropriate informality” abounds, online and off-. But person-to-person e-mail is an inherently informal form of communication. Better that students should learn to use it with appropriate measures of informality and patience than not use it at all.
As quoted in Don’t Email Me (Inside Higher Ed).
What surprises me is that Duvall encourages telephone calls during office hours (when of course she might be talking with students who have come in to ask questions). Calls would seem to me like much greater interruptions.
For guidance on how to e-mail professors who are willing to read e-mails, see How to e-mail a professor. Its numbers are nearing the half-million mark. More recent and less widely read: How to e-mail a student.
[I would like to link to Duvall’s blog post, but it’s no longer online.]