Archive for March 1st, 2010

A recent post about names and titles over at Scatterplot got me thinking about the conventions that professors (and grad students, instructors, etc.) use when sending e-mails to students.  It seems that the “professor e-mail” topic is rather barren when compared to the multitude of posts, e-mails, and conversations I have had regarding student e-mails and their ridiculousness/lack of professionalism.  As I noted in my comment at Scatterplot:

When teaching classes as a graduate student in a large department at a large university I told my students to call me whatever they were comfortable with but signed e-mails with my first name, which led to a number of them to call me by my first name. I saw this as a way to make things feel a bit closer on a large campus. Besides, I didn’t want to reinforce the idea that I wasn’t a “real” professor.

Now that I am a real (well, assistant) professor at a small liberal arts school I do less to encourage students to use my first name and most of them call me “Dr.” or “Professor.” Since the campus is smaller and I am much more likely to see students outside of class I don’t mind reminding them that there is some social distance between us.

My movement away from encouraging first-name usage has caused some problems for my e-mail routine.  Now, in addition to trying to find a proper closing (Peace?  Best wishes?  Sincerely?  Yours until the end of time?) I also need to find a different way to sign my name.  So far I have been hesitant to sign “Dr. Smith” or “Professor Smith,” maybe because they seem too new to have stuck yet.  My current unsatisfactory practice has been to let my e-mail signature, which includes my full name and contact information, stand in as a closing and signature, but this leaves my e-mails feeling unfinished

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