Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weird Email Issue

There's a student here who uses only an off-campus email, which in itself is a pain in the rear. Worse, this off-campus email includes in part a disparaging racial term. Think of a disparaging racial term. Now add a letter on one side and a wingding on the other.

Part of me thinks, I really need to communicate to the student that s/he might want to rethink the email, especially since s/he is going to be contacting professional folks through this, apparently. (S/he has contacted me, for example.)

Part of me is sort of sure the student doesn't recognize the disparaging racial term as such, and that the email address actually means something personal to him/her. I'm guessing it's one of those things where s/he got a nickname as a kid that just so happens to include this term, and either never thought about it, or laughed it off, since s/he isn't the targeted race.

But someone with a little wider experience will recognize the racial slur, as I did, and at the least wonder why this student is using this email.

What to do, oh wisdom of the internets?


  1. As a student, I would want to know. I actually had a professor joke about my "princess" email when I was about to graduate, and I immediately stopped using it for professional emails. I hadn't ever thought of it until it was brought up. It was an old email that I had been using for years. So if it was me, I would want to know if I was using something inappropriate or unprofessional, especially, if it could be taken in such a way as this instance.

  2. Likewise, as the student I'd want to know. I got clued in by a teacher in highschool, and it made me really glad I hadn't used a silly email in college.

  3. there are plenty of free email programs. the student can use his/her embarassing email for personal stuff, but it won't do him/her any favors professionally, or for any more serious communication he/she might want to do. sure, it's a bit of a pain to check 2 emails, but lots of grownups get into the habit of opening both tabs every day.

    this reminds me to remind my daughter that she needs a grownup email address, since she won't be at her U forever.

  4. I'd tell them too. At my uni, the policy is that students *have to* use the uni email address assigned to them, and I go over this on the first day of class and make a joke about how I won't answer email from "" and neither will potential employers. Gently suggest that the term the student is using could be offensive, and you don't want to seethe student's chances hurt by an email address.

  5. I agree with commenters above that the student would most likely appreciate your telling him/her.

  6. I actually do a little bit about this on the first day of writing workshop, since all submissions these days have to have an email attached -- something like the -- I tell them if they've got a sexist or racist or just plain silly email, they should change it.

    Too late to blanket comment this student, but you're doing her a favor by pointing it out.

    And yeah, you could do it the "I'm sure you don't realize, but X is sometimes used as a racist term" route. (That's how we'd do it here in Arkansas. Only we'd add 'bless your heart,' also.)