Etiquette issues between students and faculty

Class had started, but the professor hadn’t arrived yet.

“Okay, she has 10 minutes,” a student announced to a sea of students mindlessly scrolling on their phones.

As 10 minutes roll by, and still no professor, the student happily said, “ok we can leave now,” and the rest of the students joined in an excited mass-exodus.

But for the record, there is no rule in the Castleton University Handbook or anywhere else that might be considered a reliable source that states if a professor is 10 minutes late, students may leave.

This is merely a rumor and wait times vary based on whom you ask.

Three professors were asked about what they thought about this “rule” and all had very different opinions.

“I don’t care about the rule; professors should be on time. This is a profession; we are the role models,” said Sanjukta Ghosh, coordinator of the women and gender studies program and communication professor. She said professors have just as much responsibility to be on time as the students do.

English professor Bill Wiles said the 10-15 minute rule was a rumor when he was in college as well.

“We had professor who was notoriously scatter-brained and absent-minded and we would purposefully wait (10 minutes). We would even see him coming and we would go out the other door, this particular classroom had another exit,” Wiles said.

But Wiles doesn’t condone this in all cases because sometimes professors do have reasons for being late. As a probation officer, when he was in court he would sometimes run late. This would cause him to be late to class, but he always called the office ahead to let the students know.

“If a professor is continuously late for class, that is disrespectful to the class,” Wiles said.

Students said that they get annoyed with professors being late.

“I did have one professor last semester who would show up five to 10 minutes late, which was irritating because then she tried to keep us five to 10 minutes later when the class is over,” said junior Curstin Hemple.

But while some students are quick to bail after 10 minutes, Emily Sweeney, a senior, says she never does.

“I’d rather err on the side of caution and wait because I pay a lot of money to come here so I would rather sit and wait on the off chance that the professor is going to come,” Sweeney said.


The Informal E-mail

Other common interactions between students and professors have unspoken rules to follow as well; including is how to communicate with each other through technology.

Junior Katelyn Ireland said some professors are too informal.

“We took the time to formally write a good response and they are like ‘yeah it’s fine, lol,’” Ireland said

Sweeney said that she puts a lot of time into e-mails to professors and many times she gets short responses that are more informal.

“I am very polite, very formal and then I get a response that says ‘From my iPhone, Hi,’” Sweeney said.

But Ghosh said a majority of students aren’t very formal in their e-mails. She said they often do not identify the class they are asking about and ask questions that could be answered by looking at the syllabus.

“I put a lot of time into my syllabus and it still doesn’t work,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh shared her syllabus and spoke of her policy on how to construct an e-mail.

It says that students must state their name, what class they are in and then state the reason for their e-mail.

She does not reply to students who ask a question that is answered in the syllabus.

Other professors do not mind students being informal in their communications, they just want them to be polite.

“I do wish people would use the conventions of the language. I’m not one for text speak in e-mails,” Wiles said.

Some, like business professor Ed Dansereau, even give students his cell phone number to contact him if it is just a quick question that needs a quick response.

Of the students interviewed, however, all agreed that it was frustrating how long some professors take to respond.

Ireland and Hemple, both agreed sometimes professors take too long, but their definitions of “too long” varied.

“At three hours I would probably give up,” Ireland said. She said usually her e-mails are about assignments so she needs a quick response.

Hemple said she has waited as long as a full week for a response.

“Enough time for me to go back into the classroom to say ‘hey, I sent you an e-mail; I don’t know if you go it, but I still haven’t gotten anything back.’ Most often than not they say ‘I haven’t gotten a chance to read it and write back yet,’ which is kind of frustrating when it comes to academics,” Hemple said.

Sweeney said that she once waited four days for a reply. Her response was to send another e-mail with the previous one copied in it after asking if they had gotten it originally. She got a reply a half hour later.

Professors interviewed said they do their best to reply as quickly as possible.

Ghosh said that she makes sure to respond to e-mails at the end of the day when she gets home. Dansereau checks and replies to e-mails twice a day.

The last major college etiquette complaint common among professors and even some students, is cell phone usage in the classroom.

Ghosh has a rule in her classroom that students must put their phones on the table at the front of the classroom on a flashcard that says their name.

“Students have later told me that it freed them from having to respond to text messages,” Ghosh said.

She admits, however, it does not always work. She said one time, when students were meeting in groups she was walking around the classroom and speaking to each group and one girl had her phone out. She was speaking directly to the student and the student was texting inside the opening of her backpack and ignoring Ghosh.

“It’s that automatic for students,” Ghosh said, meaning they are always texting.

Other professors allow students to use their phones in class.

“I’ve given up. I used to have policies. I used to say no electronic devices,” Dansereau said. He said people ignored the rules and still used their phones.

Wiles said that he does not like cell phone use in the classroom, but he does not do anything to stop it.

Students place their phones on notecards with their name on them at the beginning of Professor Sanjukta Ghosh's class. Photo by Olivia Maher. 

“My position is students like to tell me they’re adults so I take them at their word and if they want to spend the time that we have in class fiddling with their cell phone, go ahead,” Wiles said.

But the distraction is not limited to professors.

“I get annoyed when they use their phones or laptops for non-schoolwork because I get distracted by it too,” Ireland said.

But junior Elisa Covey said students should be allowed to use their phone if they want.

“If a teacher gets mad at me for being on my phone, they might think I am being disrespectful, but I am going to be the one getting a bad grade for missing something,” Covey said.


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