AtheismHigher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Email propriety part eleventy one

Like most teachers and professors, I have received many an email from a student that employs a less than professional tone.  (Let’s be real here, I’ve gotten emails that are train wrecks of bad spelling, grammar, use of text speak, incomprehensible content, etc., occasionally all at once…) I also have had over-sharing happen in these mails.   NO I don’t need to know specifically what horrible symptoms you are experiencing to believe you can’t come to class!  I’m also not terribly interested in the specifics of your fight with your boyfriend/sister/mother.

Lately I’ve noticed I’m getting a new breed of email extras, the prayers.  If a student is struggling, they may refer to what actions they are taking and mention praying for help (not a problem!).  They call on god to enable their success (not a problem!).  They ask god to bless me (not like a salutation kind of bless you, and starting to be problematic).  The entire email is a paean to god with sprinkled information in it (what was this email for?).  I’ve gotten these dedicated to multiple gods for multiple religions.

I generally explain to my students how to appropriately email me and I demonstrate email etiquette when I send emails to help reduce this, but how can I approach the prayers?   While I am an atheist, I generally don’t care of gods are invoked in general or even in the specific, but some of these are getting out of hand and they’re not really appropriate.  I have had some of these students straight out ask me my religious affiliation and I explain it’s not a question I want to answer, but often they don’t get that they’re being nosy.  I also do work at a college that was founded by a religion, so there are indeed religious symbols around perhaps sending mixed messages to these students.

I also keep my atheism to myself – I have been gently warned that sharing this wouldn’t be an outright issue, but it would likely cause some unconscious biases among my peers and the students.  I’m not a fan of how much institutional religion still happens at my place of work, but it’s not that big a deal, but most places of work aren’t so affiliated and don’t have so much emphasis on religion, Hobby Lobby and churches aside.  These students may find their style is less appreciated in “the real world” when they leave college for employment upon completion.  Of course, I may be wrong about that.

So here’s my question to you: does it matter if the students are including prayers in their emails, for themselves or for me?  What, if anything, would you do about this?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET)

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

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