There Is Such Thing As a Stupid Question

2
2

Have you ever had your professor take weeks to respond to your e-mail or just not respond at all? It was probably because your e-mail was impolite, or perhaps you asked a stupid question. In all likelihood it was both.
A recent New York Times article highlights the deteriorating state of e-mail communication between professors and students. As students are increasingly comfortable shooting off e-mails to professors, tales of excessive intoxication and salacious endeavors accompanying demands for notes are not unheard of. Professors have been left feeling not only slighted but also overburdened.
In most cases, when a student sends a professor a brief, courteous e-mail after class, it is mutually beneficial. The student is enhancing his or her learning while the professor is allowed the opportunity to realize points needing further clarification.
With its 24-hour convenience and relative ease, however, e-mail communication is making professors more accessible to students and also leaving them exposed to poorly thought-out e-mails. Professors’ inboxes are filled with excuses for absences and ill-mannered requests for notes.
Students no longer concerned with making a positive impression with a real-life encounter are unlikely to shy away from informalities and often send careless e-mails.
Although e-mail is convenient and has the feel of anonymity, even one’s late-night queries should be written with the level of deference pedagogues deserve. A lack of tact is just the part of the problem, though.
Just as there are stupid questions in class, there are also stupid questions to be reckoned with in cyberspace.
‘Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I’m a freshman, I’m not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!’
This e-mail from a freshman at UC Davis is the sort of question that need not be asked of professors.
Even though being a freshman can be scary and school supply shopping can be intimidating, should we really be wasting a professor’s time with these basic questions? No.
Although being unreasonably demanding or just plain rude is unacceptable because professors deserve better, asking them stupid questions is far worse because it wastes time.
As professors are forced to sift through irrelevant e-mail they are inevitably wasting precious time that could be spent answering more important e-mails or doing other, more productive things.
Concerned that cutting down on questions will compromise your education? Try something new: office hours.
Professors’ out-of-class office hours were made for stupid questions.
You can have a stupid question bonanza if you. Unlike e-mail, professors can cut off stupid ideas before they become stupid questions at office hours. But you still can’t be rude. So gather your stupid thoughts, dust off your manners and make your way to your professor’s next office hours.

Send comments to eic@newuniversity.org. Include your name, year and major.

In this article