The rhetoric class I’m taking requires a research paper to be submitted at the end of the semester. I’ve decided to do mine on creative writing and how that’s addressed at the undergrad writing center that I’ll be interning at. So I thought I’d check in with some creative writing profs to ask what their opinions of the place were, and what they recommended to their students.

My email:

Dear Professor H-S,

I am contacting you regarding research material for a course that I’m taking from the Department of Rhetoric. This course prepares its students for an internship at the Undergraduate Writing Center (UWC), and requires a research paper to be submitted at the end of the semester. My topic is on the services offered, or lack thereof, to students coming to the Writing Center with creative writing concerns. As a professor of creative writing, your responses to a short questionnaire would be invaluable in determining how the UWC can further help creative writers.

If it is not an inconvenience, I would really appreciate your responses to these questions:

  1. Have you heard of the Undergraduate Writing Center? If you have, what do you believe to be the purpose of this place?
  2. Do you encourage, or have you encouraged, your students to make use of this center? If not, why?
  3. Have your students ever approached the UWC? (Usually a note is sent to the instructor to let them know that the student came to seek help, unless the student expressly mentions that this shouldn’t be done) To the best of your knowledge, how well did the consultations go?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I apologize if this email is irrelevant to your current coursework. I hope to hear back from you soon.

His reply:

1.  Yes, I have.  The purpose is to help students learn punctuation, usage, clarity, mechanics, and grammar.  (Do you know what all of these terms mean?) (??!!)

2.  I used to encourage them to attend; we are no longer allowed to do so.  I don’t recomnmend the center because of this, but I ask them if they know about it.

3.  I used to receive notes.

Not all of the young men and women who work there are aware of the terms in No. 1, and sometimes students have come to me saying that I was wrong.  When I ask them for point out the error, they say they were told so by the person assigned to them.

After highly bemused conversation with my father:

Professor H-S,

Thank you for your reply. Your comment on my knowledge of clarity and grammar was, however, entirely unnecessary.

His response?

You asked for an appraisal and you received it.

… in what way, shape or form was that an appraisal that I asked for? And how was it meant to be an appraisal of myself?! The last line of his first email is actually grammatically incorrect! And how did he decide to make an appraisal of the entire center based on a few bad experiences?

This is a well-known, respected professor of English? A grumpy old man who picks a fight with a young woman whom he’s never met before?


2 thoughts on “…Seriously?

  1. WHOA. Unacceptably bad form for a professor. He’s probably referring to the structure of the sentence in Question 2, but there was absolutely no need for his petulant question.

    Professors (especially tenured ones) frequently feel the need to assert the fact that they are tools. Nice reply though (:

    1. Haha thanks. That was partly courtesy of my dad, who I think was pissed that someone insulted *his daughter*. Yeah, sentence structure slightly iffy but compared to his reply…

      Crazy guy.

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