La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

University email etiquette with students

Miss Manners has suggested that students address their emails to Professor X or Dr. X, even when the professor signs "Firstname."

I usually use the strategy used by Chris. I sign "md" with my signature below, with the following exceptions--if an undergraduate student sends me an email with a salutation "Hey" or "Miss Dion" or the dreaded "Mrs. Dion" OR if a graduate student sends me an overly formal email with "Dear Dr. Michelle Dion" (yes, this happens). In the former case, I sign my reply "Dr. Michelle Dion," with the signature and in the latter, I sign "Michelle" with the signature. I'm hoping to correct overly informal and overly formal tendencies in favor of some middle ground. [In my department, several faculty members expect even graduate students to address them as Dr., so I also have to be careful not to deviate too much from that norm.]

Unlike Margaret, I am annoyed when I get a "hey" email. I also work in an engineering institution with too many young male students who seem to refer to my male colleagues as "Dr. Whoknowseverything" and my female colleagues as "Miss Whatwasyournameagain."

While I'm personally not real picky with how students address me as long as they are respectful (which in my case has seldom been a problem--I'm a commanding 5'1"), I am sensitive to the pervasive gender biases among our students. To make a point to them, I address the problem directly, often with humor. By the end of the semester, students always get the gender pronoun right when we discuss different authors of the articles we read, so I feel justified in my little bit of consciousness raising. And no one has ever complained about it on my evaluations either.

posted by Michelle @ 2:37 PM,


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