Why Sometimes There’s No Response . . .

Every year, student surveys report that students are dissatisfied with the rate and amount of faculty response to their emails and phone messages. This bothers me, and I encourage everyone in my area to respond to students as soon as possible. And, for the most part, we do.

However, there are times we can’t, and here are the reasons why:

  • Wrong email addresses given to us. Last week, I was working on chat. A student needed some documents sent, so I asked for his email address. He typed it in, and I copied it down. When I emailed later, Outlook sent me a “no such address” mail failure notice. I was still at the same computer and the chat was still up. I had copied the email down correctly, and since I didn’t have the student’s whole name, I had no other way to connect with him.
  • Email and address lists not updated. Sometimes we get questions from students emailed from their online courses. For some technical reason, we can’t respond directly to those emails. We have to look up their ID numbers in the student database, so we can email using their preferred address. At least half the time, students have not updated those addresses, and so once again, we are sending messages out into the ether.
  • Garbled phone messages. This one thing drives me crazy (or crazier than I am). Someone will leave a voice mail message. It goes on for minutes. The person labors through each syllable. And then she comes to her phone number, which she rattles off at a speed that can only be described as supersonic. Sometimes, repeated listening does not help, and after having colleagues unsuccessfully try to decipher the numbers, I can only hope the person will call back.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In spite of best intentions, we do sometimes forget to call back. We’re only human. But make it a little easier for us. Give us the ability to do so.
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