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Unreasonable requests from students: Sense check

276 replies

LaChanticleer · 22/01/2022 15:09

Just a place to moan really - in the last week, I have received the following requests from students:

  • that I come down (2 floors) from my office to the entrance of our security locked building to let them in for a tutorial they had booked with me because they couldn't find their id card (you know -slide the id card in the card reader to gain entry to an unportered building)

  • after sending out an email to my students in a module with a link in the email to my tutorial booking website and put in bolded letters "KEEP THIS EMAIL" and also putting the link in my email signature, several emails from students asking me to send them the link.

    I politely responded NO to all of these requests, but what I really wanted to say was:

    grow up
    you're an adult
    I am not your secretary

    AIBU as an academic? (btw, I'm a senior professor). Do these students realise that they're behaving quite rudely & unprofessionally?

    But beyond my own frustration at them treating me as if I'm their servant, just how do we prepare them for a workplace, where behaviour/requests like this would really land them in the shit? if they asked a senior colleague or maybe their boss, or someone who was funding them, they'd be given short shrift, and probably have a bit of a black mark against them ...
OP posts:

YaIz · 23/01/2022 01:26

At least, all new appointments have Professor in their titles, where previously it might have been Reader, University Senior Lecturer and University Lecturer.


halloweenie13 · 23/01/2022 01:29

It's your job. To be completely honest also, lecturers and universities aren't actually doing enough for students based on what they are paying for the course. Stop moaning and be more compassionate.


Sodthebloodypicnic · 23/01/2022 04:26

Honestly op I do get it. Students can be lazy and annoying but I think you're being a bit infantalising to your adult learners.

With respect to the poster who suggested students should ask the other students on their course. A lot of students don't know many if any of their peers at university. Third years now will have had every year affected by covid. Unis don't publish classlists anymore because of GDPR. OP as the lecturer might be the only person they know to contact with lost cards etc.

I think we underestimate how much covid has influenced the current UGs. The ones who've come straight from school, have had much less time to grow up than their predecessors. They've had 2 years of Lockdowns stuck with mummy and daddy without interaction with their peers. It seems ridiculous to expect students who've not sat alevels or even been in school full time for the last two years to be perfect.


Blossom64265 · 23/01/2022 05:22

The student had an appointment with you and couldn’t access the building. Yes, having the is card would have been best, but life happens. The student contacted you and still wanted to meet and simply asked for help in accessing an education.

People lose track of links all the time. It’s nearly constant in workplaces to have to resend. If you aren’t willing to deal with that, try setting up a centralized place with all your critical course information so students don’t have to search emails for things they need.


Blossom64265 · 23/01/2022 05:25

Oh and I have taught at the university level so I am not judging without experience. At the current time I am 100% research.


RobotValkyrie · 23/01/2022 07:55

As a former academic myself, and working professional, I dare say you sound very much stuck up your own ass, OP. And not that professional...

The email thing is a basic communication issue. Why are important links about your module buried in an email? Don't you have a personal staff page with links to key resources for all the modules you run? Then by all means put a link to that one page in your email signature, and kindly point at your signature whenever answering any student query about where to find stuff. That's the professional thing to do. It is your fucking job. If it happens too often, just have a canned email answer ready, and automate it. Job done.

The bit about the door is a bit more annoying, but still... The collegial thing to do would be go and meet your students yourself (if you're on your own), or (if you're so important...), send one of your minions to open the door (a student who happens to be already in, a PhD student of yours, or a post-doc, or another more junior professor, or perhaps your own PA?). If you don't have any minions to do your chores, then I doubt you're as senior as you think...


ineedsun · 23/01/2022 07:56


It's your job. To be completely honest also, lecturers and universities aren't actually doing enough for students based on what they are paying for the course. Stop moaning and be more compassionate.

You know that the fees don’t just pay for teaching but all the student support, buildings, maintenance, resources, administration etc too?

I don’t agree with the fees, but actually 9.5k a year is pretty reasonable for what they get.

Allthelols · 23/01/2022 08:05

I’m a medical consultant and I forgot my ID card yesterday!

As soon as you get more than one slightly daft I’ve lost the link email just send a whole year group mail reminding them of the link and the need to keep it in their records. If you want to you can say you won’t keep sending it. You can even add what else you expect them to do eg look on library system for a paper rather than just emailing you for a link. You won’t win most popular professor of the year award but you will get less irritated by emails back.

They aren’t at the point of being in the workplace yet they are still learning which is partly the point. But if you feel they need to learn to be more organised (which they do) either don’t respond or be firmer.
You are annoyed by the obligation to respond as much as the requests themselves- so dont.
You get an an email to let them in the door -as they forgot their ID card and you think that is unreasonable- don’t reply- they miss their tutorial. Lesson learnt.


gildalily · 23/01/2022 08:18

In my job I spend a lot of time re-telling professional people where to find things and resending out links to information. I work in professional services in a university and guess who I'm sending information to? Clue: it's not just the students who forget stuff.


GalesThisMorning · 23/01/2022 08:20

My son is a scatty, unprofessional 1st year who is really struggling right now with the demands of his course. He is not a snowflake or incompetent (although he feels incompetent atm) but he has never done this before and has only ever experienced teachers holding his hand/ nagging/ reminding/ encouraging him every step of the way. This doesn't happen at uni and he is floundering.

I work in student support in a different uni. I see this every single year, and told him to speak to his tutors who will want to help him...

OP, helping your students is part of your job. It doesn't mean you have to run around for them, but they are not yet professional academics, and they will still need some help I'm afraid!


BitcherOfBlakiven · 23/01/2022 08:39

Yes, I’m in the UK.

Yes to having every year of my degree fucked up my the Pandemic - it hasn’t affected me the way it has the young ones because I’m in my 30s, but it’s still been deeply unpleasant.

Yes it came up on active but I lurk on this board as I’m very much planning a PhD and, hopefully, working in Academia myself so it’s a very useful board for me lurk on!


GlassRaven · 23/01/2022 08:39

I feel you are being a bit harsh. They are students- of course they aren't "professional". It's annoying and inconvenient for you but part of being a student is learning to organise yourself. I can only imagine they haven't had any solid routine of learning, with circumstances in constant flux between online and then having to get yourself to classes in person. They are not like you. They are not senior professors. They are not professionals. They are not academics. They're young and just setting out on their independent lives.

If another senior professor forgot their ID and needed buzzing in, I'm sure you wouldn't begrudge them...

Don't slide into a disdainful and contemptuous attitude to your students - you'll end up hating your job.


CatSpeakForDummies · 23/01/2022 09:04

I wouldn't bat an eyelid at either of these requests, TBH, they are things I see from colleagues all the time, so no evidence that being scatty hinders an academic career!

This week I was emailed by a student who said her computer had broken so she was using her phone. She didn't like reading journals on her phone so could I print them off and post them to her... not even a "please!"

I did say no to that, and reminded her the library was open!


StrongerOrWeaker · 23/01/2022 09:17

I haven't come across this but I can relate with a pp's comment on students getting increasingly entitled. They all expect a first now and if they don't get one, they will blame your marking!


SpinsForGin · 23/01/2022 10:55

lecturers and universities aren't actually doing enough for students based on what they are paying for the course. Stop moaning and be more compassionate.

You're joking right? Have you any idea how hard the vast majority of university staff work?


cassandre · 23/01/2022 11:30

I agree, SpinsforGin, we're working our arses off.

And because of Covid the last two years have been the most stressful of my career. My research has pretty much ground to a halt because the teaching demands have been so onerous. (Not to mention how hard it was during lockdown to be a uni lecturer teaching from home with my school-aged DC at home doing their own 'home learning' as well.) Things seem to have settled down somewhat now but it's still a far cry from normality.

And UK uni fees are a bargain compared to how much you'd pay to go to a US Ivy League university or liberal arts college.


SpinsForGin · 23/01/2022 11:39

And because of Covid the last two years have been the most stressful of my career. My research has pretty much ground to a halt because the teaching demands have been so onerous. (Not to mention how hard it was during lockdown to be a uni lecturer teaching from home with my school-aged DC at home doing their own 'home learning' as well.) Things seem to have settled down somewhat now but it's still a far cry from normality.

I could have written this word for word.
I've dine no research in the last two years which will ultimately impact any promotion opportunity.
My teaching work load trebled and it's not got back to anywhere near a normal level yet.
And homeschooling a 6 year old while trying to teach was pretty much impossible!

I'm broken but I'll still do all I can to support my students .... but I am entitled to get a little frustrated at times! Even if I don't express it to any of the students.


MissTrip82 · 23/01/2022 12:05

I resuscitate people for a living. Including children.

Sometimes I let people into the building when they lose their swipe card and sometimes I help them when they can’t find a link they were sent.

I’m not as important as a senior academic, I guess.


LaChanticleer · 23/01/2022 12:29

Gosh, I didn't expect so many responses! I was marking all day yesterday (trying to make a dent in the 60,000 words worth of essays to be read & returned with detailed written feedback by Friday) so didn't get back online till very late.

The sneering tall poppy tone of some posts is instructive but as Taylor Swift said so wisely: Haters gonna hate.

I'm really not the person some of you have made up in your head - I'm probably more approachable than most - my comment about being a professor was just to give context that
a) I'm old and don't do "down with the kids" - I'm not a chummy matey kind of tutor - I found tutors like that when I was an undergrad to be a bit creepy TBH - but I'm approachable & professional, which I feel is more use to them
and b) when I was an undergrad I'd never have dreamed of behaving as some students do to me (emails with no subject line or greeting is a minor example).

And yes! to being asked about my male colleagues' teaching! Indeed, students sometimes ask me about male colleagues' modules in other (cognate) departments, because they feel they can talk to me more easily.

The students I'm teaching this year are final year undergrads, have been using the building I work in for 3 years (bar last year's Term 2 when we had to be online), use the building regularly for getting to seminars and also use the specialist facilities we have for group & self-directed work in our teaching spaces. They know there's swipe card access!

I was actually seeing this group all day in 1 to 1 tutorials, so I was just not available to let this particular student in. They'd emailed me 20 mins before their appointment telling me their card "had gone walkabout" so I would need to let them in. In an email with no subject line or greeting, which I saw because I was checking something online for the student with me at that moment.

Ditto the systems we have for making tutorial appointments for a 1 to 1: we use a booking system with a link that we give to the students, plus we all have our personal ink in our email signatures. I suppose I could dictate to them their set weekly tutorial appointment in the seminar, but the booking system gives them the freedom of choice to pick a time they prefer (within the range of times/days I'm available).Ditto that I offer either in-person or online. Lots of choice for them.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a student to read an email clearly titled with the module number & the topic of the email. Surely that's an important professional "soft skill"? We don't put this on the VLE because it's a big team-taught module and they get confused (and they rarely read the VLE anyway - we can track who logs into it - they just bang out an email). Tomorrow maybe I'll show them how to file emails in labelled folders, or search their email inbox ... But that will cut into valuable discussion/learning/reaching time in the seminar. And facilitating their learning in my subject is my job, I think.

Our professional service colleagues in the adjoining building have become so fed up with being asked to walk over with them & let them in, that there is a blanket ban on that. Our Administrator is firm (fierce!) about this. My seminars are regularly interrupted by students texting their friends to come down & let them in. I try to run relaxed and welcoming seminars - they're free to leave for whatever reason (some have disability plans which ask that they be allowed to leave to decompress or the like) so I just give a blanket permission that any time anyone needs to leave, do so, quietly, and come back when you can.

But interruptions for basic organisational things - an ID card they need to enter & use the Library & many many campus buildings, as well as i operating as a kind of cash card - well, I just worry that this kind of regular - minor, I grant you - lack of responsibility is going to make their subsequent working lives difficult.

And for every professional service colleague's story about having to nag/chivvy academics, I can match with having to do the work of a professional services colleague. Just last week I had to remind someone that the thing they kept sending me to do (most recently with a veiled threat about my responsibility at law) I had done 3 months ago. Something I kept telling them. I finally sent the original report + email trail from November, but it felt a bit passive-aggressive.

I've also had two grant applications - one of which was quite big & would have funded about 10 PhD students for the University (so over £1mill income), both of which took 6 months of my research time (always a slender commodity) - go down the drain because admin colleagues responsible for doing the final sign off neglected to do so. I didn't even get an apology, just a "Whoops, we got mixed up in the office."

BUT I was actually motivated to ask about this - in a section of MN where academics talk to each other about our current working conditions & dilemmas, because I am really concerned and worried about them. The 2 examples I gave in my OP are just the most recent and yes, pretty minor. But I think they're indicative of something more concerning. The regular requests for me to give them information which they have access to in multiple ways, the regular lack of organisation, the assumption that my time is of no value, or that when I'm answering these requests I"m not doing something that would actually be of more benefit to them (or other students) - I worry about them. They are 5 months away leaving university for the working world. I worry about them - I worry that they're going to get a big shock when they are in jobs where their managers are not necessarily approachable or forgiving of lack of responsibility.

I'm also very aware (yes, of course I've worked elsewhere than a university - but a university is a legitimate workplace just like anywhere else) that employers say publicly that they find current graduates unprepared for the responsibilities and discipline of professional work. And I know Socrates complained about the "youth of today" Grin. But I can't just tell students off (sharp words etc as recommended on this thread) because the teacher-student relationship is a delicate one, and I don't want to mess it up with having to discipline them. It isn't school; these undergrads are all 20 or 21.

Maybe I'm overly worried about this? Maybe I should just shrug my shoulders and let them bumble their way into the workplace, but I feel the need to find ways to prepare them, without that getting in the way of a good teaching relationship.

Anyway, thanks for all the responses. I'd better get back to my marking ...

OP posts:

LaChanticleer · 23/01/2022 12:37

I'm broken but I'll still do all I can to support my students .... but I am entitled to get a little frustrated at times! Even if I don't express it to any of the students.

Exactly! @SpinsForGin Of course I don't show my frustration to my students. But I do get concerned about the pretty widespread spoon-feeding they seem to require. It's not good for them in the long run.

Solidarity to you and @cassandre These last 2 years have been the hardest of my 30 years in academia. Including being sworn at by students in online teaching, being told I don't know what I'm talking about in a Teams chat in a teaching session, and being shouted down in student meetings called in the wake of last January's hastily announced lockdown. All staff involved (it wasn't just me) were a bit traumatised at that point ...

And I love my job and am good at it (despite some views on this thread Grin

OP posts:

ElftonWednesday · 23/01/2022 12:41

This happens quite a bit with older adults. Someone forgets their keys at work and I have to let them in. Several people ask for something in an email you've already sent. I would expect it of younger adults, but have words if it was the same person, over and over.


Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g · 23/01/2022 12:43

It never happened to my recollection when I was a student, but had any student sworn at a member of staff (academic or otherwise) I would have expected disciplinary action to follow in short order. Totally unacceptable.


CuriousaboutSamphire · 23/01/2022 12:45


Wow! Yes the students should learn to be more organised, but if I were you I'd remind myself that they pay your wages?
Did you never ask for help like this at uni? When living away from home as an undergrad for the first time? I'd be sad if you ever taught my kids.

Dear god! They pay your wages.

A whole bingo card all on its own!

LaChanticleer · 23/01/2022 12:51

The University + my research grants pay my wages. And the University is funded by the taxpayer, if you look at the real-life detail of the current funding model.

yes I can't help rising to the bait Back to my essays

OP posts:

camperqueen54 · 23/01/2022 13:13

It doesn't matter if you're a senior academic or a big standard academic. It's frustrating but it happens. Ignore them then when they email say. I came down but couldn't see you sorry. Rebook and this time bring your pass!

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