Yep, one of those emails. Summer emails from students are rarely good. The best one can hope for is a request for a letter of recommendation. Those I don't mind much.
Legally, I'm not on contract until well into August, and don't have to respond to anything from students until then. But in real life, if I'm able, I'll respond, even if to say that I'm out of town when I am. And I'll try to take care of basic stuff (letters of recommendation and such). Students, of course, don't realize that we're not under contract, and not paid, for the summer months. We have plenty of work to do, but no pay. And the June paycheck is short because the school takes out our contributions to health and other insurance for the whole summer. (And I'm grateful to have insurance coverage for the summer; trust me on that.) So there's no requirement or incentive to do extra stuff that takes away from research and pleasure.
Today's email was from a student who took an incomplete in a class several years ago. Last fall, she met with me to talk about the work she needs to do to complete the class, and left promising to do it over the winter break. She's a high school teacher, and I know how difficult it is to get things done. Really, I do! I wasn't holding my breath.
And now she emailed me for an appointment to talk about the same incomplete, promising this time to finish the work in August.
I'm guessing she doesn't even have notes from our last meeting, which means I have to dig out everything from the syllabus and reconstitute it. And I'm guessing she hasn't done any work on it, either, so is starting from ground zero.
Ground zero, as I recall, wasn't the best starting place. For a theory oriented class, she wanted to do a paper on how theory isn't useful or something. Theory bad, something else (I'm not saying what) good. I remember being less than enthusiastic about the topic. I'm less enthusiastic about rehashing it again, now.
I have no desire to guilt her, but I do have an evil desire to prod her about what she's done on the project since we last talked and such. It's not that I want to make her feel bad, but I do want to stop the circling back around.
If I could give grad students a bit of advice, it would be to avoid letting incompletes go cold. Everyone in my program took incompletes now and then. Most folks seemed to finish them up in the week or two between terms; those worked out well, and often enough the person was actually able to make the paper worth the wait. Some people ended putting them off. And then put another off. And then they were faced with finishing up two or three incompletes before they could take their exam, or before they could qualify for an extra year of teaching or apply for a fellowship convincingly. Those seemed utterly painful, and the papers were never worth the wait.