Faculty Etiquette

I’m out all week – so this is a pre-post, and a repeat of an oldie but goodie.  For those who are P’22s with incoming first-year students, today’s Daily Deac is a primer in some of the etiquette that will help your Deac make a good impression with faculty. There are some rules and expectations that students should be aware of – and I believe in clueing people in to those vs. learning them the hard way. So here goes…

A faculty friend of mine mentioned this article, U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This, and it is worth a read (and a share with your students, particularly if you are a P’22).  Here are some of the main ideas, which I have reworded for the Wake setting:

Always call your faculty member Dr. [Last Name] or Professor [Last Name] – never use Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Last Name].  Dr. or Professor are the proper titles. If they tell you it’s OK to call them by their first name, that is fine. But unless/until they do, they are Dr. to you. That is a show of respect. (Aside:  I am almost 48 years old and in graduate school.  I am older than 90% of the faculty members whose classes I have taken.  Still, I always, always call my professors “Dr. [Last Name]” unless they have told me I can call them something else.  You can’t unmake a bad first impression, so erring on the side of respect never hurts you, only helps.)

If emailing, you need to introduce yourself, use polite language, and close warmly. This means opening with a “Dear Dr. Smith,” and closing with some polite send off (“Thank you,” “Sincerely” etc.) and signing with your first and last name so your faculty member knows who you are (a faculty member could have five Scotts among all the classes she teaches, and the way our Wake email addresses are constructed does not always make it obvious what one’s last name is.)  Grammar and punctuation should be correct, if you ask questions, be sure they are clear and concise. Do not take an overly familiar or chummy tone – no use of shortcuts like UR for “your” etc.

Before you email a professor with a question, do your homework. The course syllabus is essentially the contract for the class – it tells students what the assignments are and when they are due, when tests/papers/quizzes are due, whether there is an attendance or class participation policy, what the grading system is, etc.  When a student emails a professor to say “what happens if I miss class today?” and there is a clearly-stated attendance policy on the syllabus, that student is revealing that he/she has not done their homework in knowing their obligations for the class. That can form a bad impression.

You (or your students) may be wondering Why does all this stuff matter? or Why have what seems like nit-picky rules and formality?  The article explains:

“Insisting on traditional etiquette is also simply good pedagogy.  It’s a teacher’s job to correct sloppy prose, whether in an essay or an email. And I suspect that most of the time, students who call faculty members by their first names and send slangy messages are not seeking a more casual rapport.  They just don’t know they should do otherwise – no one has bothered to explain it to them.  Explaining the rules of professional interaction is not an act of condescension: it’s the first step in treating students like adults. [emphasis mine]

There is a very comprehensive site from one faculty member from the University of Houston, who explains academic etiquette guidelines for his students. Also very much worth a read, as it goes into many more details and situations your students might encounter.





Categories: academicscampus life


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