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Author Topic: Email gaff  (Read 6026 times)
amprof
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« on: May 06, 2012, 5:58:32 PM »

I made a classic email gaff, yet I don't know how to handle it. 

I'm a first-year professor, and I sent an email about 14 of my students to 6 of those same students, when I intended to send the e-mail only to my colleague with whom I teach.  I'll spare you the details of how I managed this awful mistake.

I didn't reveal grades or other specific information in my e-mail, though I did identify the students who had not yet turned in overdue work.  We had reminded the class several times to turn in late work, so the fact that work was overdue was not new, but names we're shared in my e-mail. The tone of my e-mail was frustrated due to this chronic late work.  I said that I was going to send a stern e-mail to the students I named, telling them to get in their work.  I also said "It's a good thing they've already done their course evaluations. :) "  (We are entering exam week.)

I of course immediately replied to the same 6 students and apologized, and expressed how embarrassed I was.  I kept it short -- four sincere and humble sentences.  I've informed my co-teacher of my mistake and my apology.

Aside from wishing for a time machine, is there anything else I can and should do to rectify this mistake?  Or do I let it go and hope others do the same?  My nature is to fall all over myself, but I've learned that assuming a weakened position can make others latch on to the wrong done to them and the power it provides.  Still, I feel just terrible -- embarrassed, unprofessional, and anxious. 
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scampster
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2012, 6:04:46 PM »

You apologized. I think you should let it go unless it gets brought up by someone else. The only thing I wonder is if maybe you should mention it to your chair, in case any of the students are particularly vindictive and go straight to him/her? I would rather he/she hear it from me, than from a student.
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linvitee
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2012, 6:08:17 PM »

First, it's 'gaffe.'

Second, in my opinion it's always a bad idea to send an apology email following something like that. All it does is alert that you did it to everyone who missed it. I would have feigned ignorance and only apologized if someone else brought it up. I've gotten accidental emails before from people that I didn't even open until I got the apology email, and then I thought, well, what did I miss?
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baleful_regards
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2012, 7:07:36 PM »

You apologized. I think you should let it go unless it gets brought up by someone else. The only thing I wonder is if maybe you should mention it to your chair, in case any of the students are particularly vindictive and go straight to him/her? I would rather he/she hear it from me, than from a student.

Mention it to your Dept chair, out line the steps you've taken in response and how you plan to safeguard in the future so as to not repeat the incident.

Confess now rather than try to explain later.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2012, 7:10:14 PM »

It's also "outline," not "out line" (cue Pedant, wherever s/he has gone!).  But otherwise, exactly what Baleful and Scampster said.
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baleful_regards
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2012, 7:11:44 PM »

It's also "outline," not "out line" (cue Pedant, wherever s/he has gone!).  But otherwise, exactly what Baleful and Scampster said.

true, true. Baleful is being annoyed by her child currently and is, thus, not as attentive to her typing.
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tuxthepenguin
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2012, 9:41:28 PM »

I'm a first-year professor

Then you get to look forward to many more years of making mistakes. It happens. Move on. You apologized, which I think is appropriate. As others have suggested, you should email your department head/chair. The cost of sending that message unnecessarily is far less than the benefit of having him hear your side of the story first.

I don't see that it's a big deal. If you had sent a message, "Anne has a 43% average and is going to fail" it would be worth worrying about. What you wrote made me shrug. Not a big deal relative to some of the mistakes I've made.

[grumpy old man mode]Please don't beg students to turn in overdue work. If they didn't turn it in, give them a zero. It hurts the reputation of the profession when you do things like that.[end grumpy old man mode]
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tee_bee
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2012, 11:07:22 PM »

I've made similar mistakes more than once, and with an apology, as you offered, the students are usually very forgiving. They seem to have worked out, if nothing else, the foibles of our newfangled technology and the errors that sometimes happen with it. It will likely roll by like water off a duck.

And, yes, it's gaffe, but I thought you might have invented an email "gaff" to help us pluck out the choicest email from the sea of lame messages, kind of like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishing_gaff

This would be a winner. So you're gaff gafe typo made me smile.
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marigolds
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2012, 11:33:29 PM »

Just consider it the stern email that you were intending on sending to the students.
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amprof
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2012, 12:03:36 AM »

Thanks Baleful, Scampter, others.  I especially appreciate hearing that others have made mistakes (spelling or otherwise...), and lived to get over it.

Tux, I completely agree re: begging for late work.  The professor I'm co-teaching this course with has his own way of doing things (and has been doing it that way for 30 years).  As a first-year professor, I've been judicious about what changes I propose, and what I keep to myself for now.  Given that flexible deadlines have never been a problem for him before (?!?), I've held on to that suggestion, and here we are, three days before grades are due.  Trust me, in my own coursed late work isn't a problem.
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larryc
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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2012, 12:43:07 AM »

This is no big deal.
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litdawg
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2012, 10:49:10 AM »

Whatever you do, don't let your embarrassment and contrition over your mistake cause you to be more lenient to the slackers who received the message. Believe me, some students would use your mistake as a way to blame you for their failures, as disconnected in time and space as they are.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2012, 1:26:52 PM »

The "Best Gaffe of the Year at Rural SLAC" goes to a colleague of mine who sent an email to the entire faculty regarding the ranking of the Dean candidates. You can see where this is going. We indeed had a strong internal candidate who would have gotten that frank email.
Oh well!

As for the OP...this is minor. What I would have done is just send a note to the students who got the wrong thing and say "Please disregard the previous email, etc."  I wouldn't have bothered with the apology to the students who were supposed to get or who seemed particularly criticized (was anyone really spposed to get that other than colleagues?).

Students are on to the whole "oh no, professors are going to get b*tchier after evals are done!"  (or make errors, etc,) deal, so, though it wouldn't be the most professional comment for a student to see, its certainly not like its some shocking thing they've never thought of.
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nocalprof
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2012, 1:54:59 PM »

We just had a new dean of a newly-established college appointed.  We first received the announcement email written in the voice of the provost, but signed by the provost's assistant.  Then 60 seconds later a terse announcement saying "Please disregard the previous e-mail."  Then another 60 seconds later a new announcement email with the same exact text as the first, but this time signed by the provost.
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usukprof
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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2012, 2:01:27 PM »

We just had a new dean of a newly-established college appointed.  We first received the announcement email written in the voice of the provost, but signed by the provost's assistant.  Then 60 seconds later a terse announcement saying "Please disregard the previous e-mail."

At which point the vast majority of faculty that wouldn't have read an email from the provost open the email to see if there are any juicy mistakes.

Then another 60 seconds later a new announcement email with the same exact text as the first, but this time signed by the provost.

After which the faculty grumble at taking the time to read two similarly administrative emails.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 2:01:56 PM by usukprof » Logged

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