End of the semester conundrum

My day job is university professor. It’s not really a “day” job at all–I do a lot of it at nights, on weekends, and over vacations. I’m department chair too, which adds considerably to the workload. This semester–which comes to an end this week–has been especially long and difficult, with lots of disasters and drama. I will be very, very pleased to see the semester done.

Now is the time of year when I’m getting an especially large volume of emails from students. And here’s where I face a dilemma, because a lot of those emails ask questions the students could easily answer for themselves if they spent a little time on the university website or elsewhere (or reading the syllabus). I guess they find it quicker and easier to email me. Am I being crotchety if I insist they look up the answers themselves?

They are Criminal Justice majors, for one thing. How do they expect to solve crimes if they can’t figure out how to find the university catalog or discern what day their final will be? Plus they are adults who should be capable of solving their own problems without someone else’s intervention. And the laziness galls me too. Maybe it takes them a few seconds to tap out an email, but when I get dozens and dozens of them weekly, answering takes up a good chunk of my time.

When my daughters ask me questions like this, I refuse to be the Momcyclopedia. “Look it up,” I tell them. It’s for their own good. I’m hoping that in a few years they will not be plaguing their professors with questions like, Where’s the dean’s office? and What’s the last day of registration? and Which classes count for GE area F1?

But what about my students? Should I give them the answers? Ignore them? Or tell them to look it up themselves–which takes as long for me to type as just telling them the answer, but might encourage them to future responsibility?

2 thoughts on “End of the semester conundrum

  1. If they are Criminal Justice majors, I’d have to be a wise@$$ and write a form reply in the style of a mini mystery. Solve it to get their own answers. Send it to all of them and then you’ve answered them while getting them to find their own answers.

  2. I’m always kind of torn about this, too.

    When people ask something like that in class, I used to just answer them. Now I’m a bit snarky, and ask them if they checked the syllabus. (Or if, for example, they are surprised about some aspect of the assignment, I remind them it’s in the syllabus. This happened multiple times this semester.)

    I’ve also started posting links to things like the final exam schedule on Moodle. So when they email me stupid questions that they should be able to answer themselves, I respond by telling them the info is on Moodle, but that they should be able to find it themselves. (This is, perhaps, part of why I don’t know if I have a job for next year…). But I tend to give them the answer for a first-time offense, but add a note saying that the info is in the syllabus/ on the university website/ on Moodle/ somewhere else they should be able to find by themselves. It’s reduced repeat offenses.

    I have also posted a “questions” forum on Moodle in my bigger classes, and even made an FAQ once (they didn’t look at it…). Here’s what is visible right when they log into Moodle:

    Course Questions Forum
    If you have a question that you think others might have, you can post it here. But first, check the syllabus and FAQ to see if you can find the answer yourself. If you have a specific question that probably only applies to you, please email me.
    Please help each other out, and answer the questions that you are able to. I will answer those that others aren’t able to answer.

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