DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a time when young college students were already becoming intolerably rude in the classroom, virtual teaching has brought them to new lows.
Students have sent me hectoring emails -- some making various demands (in all caps), some outright attacking my professionalism. One parent actually emailed the university president with what amounted to an overreaction to her daughter’s struggles in the class. Reminders of proper netiquette have not improved this behavior.
GENTLE READER: History does not record that the invention of writing was accompanied by a rash of intemperate cuneiform proclamations later regretted, but it would not surprise Miss Manners to learn that it was so.
We are, as a species, strangely apt to forget the recipient of our communications when they are not staring us in the face.
What is quickly discovered, after the initial shock of each new communication technology, is that its permanence -- the ability to share it with the human resources department -- can be used to curb misbehavior. Ethan cannot deny his own words when they are right there in stone or clay or print or your inbox.
Miss Manners is confident that your university has written policies about respect and civility, although she cannot promise anyone has read them. If gentler corrections have failed, remind students -- and, if necessary, their parents -- of such policies, adding that you hope not to have to forward their correspondence.