Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Joys of Email

My department must have just sent out its graduate admissions decisions, because I've been getting emails from rejected applicants asking for an explanation of why they were not offered admission. I have no idea why I'm the one getting these emails (maybe such emails are being sent to all of my colleagues?). But the very idea of emailing a stranger and demanding an explanation of this kind of thing strikes me as inappropriate.

Anyway, here's my favorite of the bunch (only slightly modified):

I was shocked to receive word that I was not accepted into [your graduate program in Philosophy]. [Your school] was one of my "fall back" schools, and I expect to receive offers from many programs that I'd rank higher than [your department]. It seems to me that you should probably correct your admission process. No wonder [your department] hasn't produced a top-notch philosopher in quite some time.

18 comments:

Paul Gowder said...

WOW.

One guy e-mailed everyone in my department asking for advice on how to improve his application. And by "everyone," I mean everyone, even lowly grad students like me.

Anonymous said...

Evidently rejecting that applicant was the right decision.

chrono said...

I take it you reconsidered and made the person an offer...

Anonymous said...

Well, as an applicant, we're not all dicks, although it seems like a lot are. Here's what I would say to the many schools that have rejected me thus far:
I'm pretty depressed that you rejected me. No hard feelings, though - how in the hell do you pick a top 6 or 8 or 10 out of 200 applications? Maybe one day I'll get to find out. Until then, eat shit bitches. I mean, all the best.

M said...

I have been applying for research degrees and I've had a significant number of rejections. I am thouroughly upset at each rejection and it tears me up inside.

I take it for granted (but it is not always the case), that it is department policy not to discuss rejected applications. Am I right to assume this is the case? Clearly those applicants do not.

Students these days feel a sense of entitlement as if they are doing the university a favour.

I still have 2 more universities to hear from. I think I might kill myself if I don't get an acceptance. It's very hard these days.

just another grad student said...

Don't worry applicants... it's just a little taste of a much harder market that you'll have to work the next 6 years to be the least well qualified for..

Anonymous said...

Hehe. It is of course possible that the student knew what they were talking about, although that's unlikely. Many programs reject students they should probably not be rejecting. They also accept students they should probably not be accepting. Many of the latter students know they probably ought not have been accepted, and many of the former students know they probably ought not have been rejected.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Please remember this asshole's name and in ten years if he/she isn't occupying a top research gig, send an email saying "Looks like we made the right decision after all."

If he/she is in fact a bigwig in ten years, then just sucker punch the ass in the face and run away cackling.

Anonymous said...

did the prospective student even have am academic portfolio that would seem to explain that sort of cockiness?

further, i would be interested in where he ends up.

another question though...was this the first email that was sent? or was this a little later down the line of email communication?

Glaucon said...

Wow. The dicktitude here is almost inspiring. My favorite part is the writer's reason for thinking the rejection is a mistake: s/he expects to receive offers from better programs. Now there's some solid evidence! (What did Wittgenstein say about the results of imagined experiments -- or was it the imagined results of experiments?)

The snarky emails I sometimes receive from students who've "never gotten anything less than a B" and are lashing out at me for at the C- they earned have this same "it's not me, it's you" attitude of entitlement. (One of the joys of that recent NYT piece about students expecting to be graded on effort rather than achievement was a letter to the editor from a student who expressed resentment at teachers thinking students have a sense of entitlement: ah! meta-entitlement -- feeling entitled to not being thought of as having a feeling of entitlement.)

The Brooks Blog said...

You always have received more interesting emails than me...

Anonymous said...

M,

I hope you weren't serious. As someone who has been through it all and suffered a tremendous amount of rejection, I can certainly say that there are many reasons to live and most of the ones I can think of are not reasons for me to continue as an academic philosopher. It's not bad being a professional philosopher and I'm sure at your age if I hadn't landed in graduate school I would have been severely depressed and would have seriously contemplated doing all sorts of horrible things. These days, I wished I had appreciated all the things I could have done with my life if I was 22 again.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff... good stuff. Don't worry, we're not all idiots like this.

Krinos said...

I wonder how recent graduates from Spiros' university are taking the news that there haven't been any 'top notch' graduates from the program in a long time.

Killjoy had the right idea: keep tabs on this person and check up in about 10 years. In the meantime, be sure to dispatch graduate students to grad conferences this person goes to with 'search and destroy' orders.

Oh, and M... take your head out of the oven, man. Take another year, re-take your GRE's, work on your sample essay, and tend some bar. That's what I did, and it all turned out fine.

Anonymous said...

Is there ever an appropriate way to seek feedback? Say, wait until well after April 15 and pick a faculty member you'd like to work with, asking whether they'd be willing to critique your application (and NOT sending the whole packet presuming the answer is yes)? Or is that still bitchy?

Dr. Killjoy said...

Far too many folks think that they deserve not only notification that that they didn't get the job/grad school spot but also an explanation as to why they were rejected. To save everyone time, I, Dr. Killjoy, have perfected the following method of determining why you got rejected. First, grab a coin. Second, flip that coin.

Heads=Bad Fit
Tails=Others Better
Balances on edge=Player's Choice

For an extra ten dollars, I'll even email you an official "Bad Fit" or "Others Better" rejection letter.

So please, folks, stop treating employment/grad school rejection like the date that never called you back. Philosophy is no different than other fields of employment--400 applicants=don't call us, we'll call you.

Also, I don't mean to dump on you 5:57 but if you need someone at the school rejecting you to tell you what's wrong with your app, then the profs at your school are negligent a-holes or simply misguided about your strength, and I suppose that either one being the case might go a long way toward explaining why you were rejected.

Lastly, I too was an explanation chump. I once interviewed for a job at TGIFridays, didn't get it, then called to demand an explanation as to why. Not only did I afterward feel like an idiot for asking how dare Fridays not hire me, I also felt like a moron because it turns out that I failed the Fridays menu exam. I would have preferred "Bad Fit". So, flip that coin and move on, my friends.

Spiros said...

Krinos:

I like the "search and destroy" suggestion.

Is it me, or have philosophy conference gotten a lot more *nice* in the past, say, 6 years? I log for the days in which philosophy was a contact sport....

Krinos said...

HA!... Larry Jost at Cincy told the greatest story about Joe Margolis along those lines. Joe gives a paper at some APA session, and his commentator goes on for nearly 25 minutes and manages to neither say anything about Joe's paper or anything worthwhile generally. Joe finally gets to respond, and says: "This commentary makes me wish philosophy were a contact sport." Then he goes straight to questions. Classic!