Thursday, January 6, 2011

Odd Student Request

I know that the medium of email has introduced a lot of informality into the relationship between undergraduate students and their professors. There's a lot that's worth complaining about in that, but mostly I just try to ignore it. But recently I received an email from an undergraduate that's exceptional in a way that is hard to describe. A student wrote me the following (almost verbatim):
Hi Prof,
I'm interested in your [course] next term and I'm told you've published a lot on [the topic of the course]. On the basis of the syllabus [the course] looks interesting. Could I get a copy of your CV? Emailing it is fine.
I must be getting soft, because I simply didn't respond. What to make of this? What interest can an undergraduate have in a faculty member's CV? I suppose there's a chance that the student is mistaken about what a CV is. A colleague is convinced that certain students try to collect CVs for purposes of identifying "Leftists" and this is what is happening. Has anyone else received this kind of request?

59 comments:

Andrew Bailey said...

I think undergraduates--especially those in the "graduate school track"--might have a legitimate interest in a faculty member's CV.

When I was in college, I regularly asked for my professors' CVs. My aim was to track down their published work in the hopes I could learn something about them and thus something about how to do well in their courses. I suppose I was also "sizing them up" in a way.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he just wants more details about the papers you've published in the area?

Anonymous said...

One charitable possibility: he simply wanted to look up your prior papers that are related to the course and figured looking at your cv would be the easiest way to have a list? I've found looking at professor's past work if related to the course can be useful in judging both the possible content of the course and whether I will be interested in taking it. He also could already be planning on taking the course and is simply looking for another way to engage with the course material.

Admittedly it seems like it might have been poorly worded, but even Prof's and Grad students can trip up there.

I would give him the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity,Spiros, but how can he figure out if you are a "leftist" from your CV? If you did your undergraduate at the College of Marx and Lenin? Aaaaaah, now I got it! You are a political philosopher, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Spiros, are you telling me that you don't have a website with your CV on? Or is the student clueless/lazy that can't find that?

Anonymous said...

I meant 'is the student so clueless/lazy that she...'

Anonymous said...

No, actually, you are mistaken about what a CV is. It is a document designed to give the undergraduate precisely the information he appears to be looking for. Thus, by asking for it he is showing that he knows what a CV is not that he doesn't. You insular turd.

(I judge by your lack of complaining that the student did not note it was on your website and your reluctance to give it out that it is NOT on your website. Tsk.)

Anonymous said...

Leftests usually put said status on their CVs? I guess I need to go update mine.

Paul Gowder said...

Before you give it to him, be sure to add lots of leftist papers, just to make sure there's no doubt:

"Why Torture is Wrong, Except of Christians and Whitey." Journal of Commie Studies 35:109.

"Should we Raise Taxes to Support the Homosexual Agenda or Islamifascism? A Post-Hermeneutic Marxist-Feminist Critique." Moral Decay 12:30.

Anonymous said...

Is one's CV supposed to be kept secret?

Anonymous said...

11:03--Why "insular"? Also, I would have thought that rather than being designed to provide undergrads with information, CVs were primarily meant to display one's credentials in various professional settings. In which case maybe the student is a presumptuous prick who thinks he needs to check Spiros's credentials lest he deign to study with someone unqualified...

Also, do undergrads really do the kind of thing that Andrew Bailey and 10:49 describe? If so, I am not sure if I should feel bad for having been lazy or good for not having been a type A freak.

Anonymous said...

The attitude conveyed by the tone of voice in the email discourages me from giving the request a charitable interpretation. I think it's unlikely the student is willing to look up your publications for the purpose of doing well in the course or simply out of intellectual curiosity. I teach students who, on the whole, are highly motivated and extremely well-prepared for college, and I've never heard of this kind of request being made at my university. Moreover, if a student were to ask for legitimate reasons, I'd expect her/him to exhibit a more polished and professional demeanor in such an email.

Your colleague's suggestion strikes me as significantly more plausible.

The Brooks Blog said...

I quite like Paul's response...

I'm actually quite surprised by the request. Your website is quite clear on your publications: if publication details were an issue, these are readily identifiable. It sounds like the student may well be interested in something else.

In any event, I keep a CV on my website, but for different purposes.

Anonymous said...

At least the student did not ask for any polaroid pictures or home videos...

Anonymous said...

1. I'm an undergraduate
2. I actively read my professors' research.

I think what they do is interesting, and I think they are more likely to be interesting when they talk about what they (if you assume revealed preference) really care about.

Anonymous said...

'What interest can an undergraduate have in a faculty member's CV? I suppose there's a chance that the student is mistaken about what a CV is.'

Nice going. As a undergraduate in philosophy, I am quite turned off by your assumption that there must be some secret nefarious motive to this request, or that your student simply doesn't understand what a CV is!

The email is obviously a little informal.

Anonymous said...

As a [sic] undergraduate in philosophy, I am quite turned off by your assumption that there must be some secret nefarious motive to this request...

Anyone who discounts the possibility of a nefarious motive is ignorant of the lengths to which some undergraduates will go to expose the perceived ideological shortcomings of select faculty. Years ago at my religiously-affiliated undergraduate institution, a student was caught secretly tape-recording lectures given by a professor in religious studies. Apparently, the intent was to catch the professor on tape saying something heretical and then make the tape available to fundamentalist pastors interested in removing "liberal" faculty from the college. Given the college's substantial dependence on conservative sources of funding, this was a real issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm primarily surprised by the suggestion that the email was particularly informal. It included punctuation, capitalization, correct spelling, and complete sentences. The student requested rather than commanding. And it didn't end with "Chop, chop!" I'd love to get a student email like that.

Anonymous said...

I see no reason not to take the email at face value. The student is interested in reading some of what you've written on the topic of the course, and knows that your CV will list your publications.

I know that you advertise yourself as an "old cranky jerk". This post shows you really are!

Not replying to that email, with your CV, is bizarre and inappropriate. If a student asks to know what you've written on a topic (which is what this student is asking) you owe that student an answer to his/her question.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who discounts the possibility of a nefarious motive is ignorant of the lengths to which some undergraduates will go to expose the perceived ideological shortcomings of select faculty.

Oh please. If this student had some nefarious motive in mind would he send an email with his name attached asking for the CV? Surely he would attempt to find it on his own and if that failed find some other more anonymous way to further his evil plans? Not to mention, is there anything on a CV that the academic institution in question is not already aware of? Asking for a CV is a far cry from secretly tape-recording lectures (which is often prohibited without the professor's permission regardless of motive ).

Also, I would have thought that rather than being designed to provide undergrads with information, CVs were primarily meant to display one's credentials in various professional settings.

Who said that they were designed to provide undergrads with information or that there primarily purpose is not to display one's credentials in professional settings? However, this student is reading papers by professional philosophers and interacting with professional professors (even if in the capacity of an undergraduate) and so could have perfectly legitimate uses for reading their CVs such as looking at their research interests as well as published papers and papers in progress, as well as past coursework taught and so on. Had I not done so when I was an undergrad it would have been more difficult to identify professors who share my research interests and with whom I would like to take courses with, do independent studies with, or simply talk with to get their opinion. Point is, all the information on a CV is perfectly legitimate information for an undergrad to want to have access to. It is not like a CV is some confidential document for professional philosophers only. The typical list of published works can be found on Philpapers or GoogleScholar, and the credentials are typically listed right on their philosophy website's bio page.

With that said, this student's tone is informal. Although, I have seen worse and this seems like a case where the student's informalities could be unintentional. The only problematic part is "Could I get a copy of your CV? Emailing it is fine." Had he stated why he wished to have a copy (say because he just wanted to read the professor's papers, which would remove the implication that he wants the CV so he can evaluate the professor) and not included "emailing it is fine", which seems to presume that the professor would otherwise have considered taking the trouble to give him a paper copy, then I don't see what the problem is (aside from a lack of thanks and signature?)

Anonymous said...

And, honestly the latter part of this, "Could I get a copy of your CV? Emailing it is fine." could simply have been included as the student is relatively new to the idea of an academic CV and does not know how they are typically distributed. They might have thought paper copies are customary and wanted to clarify that a digital copy would be sufficient. The possibility that they are an undergrad student just starting out, as well as many other plausible explanations, should be enough reason for you to err on the side of caution and be generous over such trivialities as these. Otherwise you risk alienating students. Your goal should be to engage students in philosophy, not to discourage their efforts based on a poorly worded email.

Anonymous said...

If this student had some nefarious motive in mind would he send an email with his name attached asking for the CV?

Not everyone acting on nefarious motives is competent and/or clever.

Additionally, the anecdote about the student secretly tape-recording lectures was merely offered as an example that some students do in fact have nefarious motives. That some students are willing to undertake such actions even when doing so violates the institution's policy underscores the point.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing specifics about the context, I'd be curious to hear reasons why your colleague "is convinced that certain students try to collect CVs for purposes of identifying 'Leftists' and this is what is happening." This is a real issue in some contexts. If the reasons are good, then ignoring the email wouldn't be unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone acting on nefarious motives is competent and/or clever.

I think the salient point is that there is no reason to think the student has nefarious motives. To say that there is no evidence for nefarious motives because the student is very incompetent and dull and then to go on to suggest that there are nefarious motives is utter nonsense.

Anonymous said...

To say that this student is among the students who are collecting CVs in order to identify "Leftists" simply because he asked for a CV makes little sense. If you have other evidence that this student is among these students, fine, but if not then this strikes me as an inappropriate way to respond to a student.

Anonymous said...

I think the salient point is that there is no reason to think the student has nefarious motives.

Obviously, Spiros's colleague disagrees. Since said colleague presumably knows the context better than many of those posting comments on this thread, I'd be interested to hear her/his reasons for suspecting a nefarious motive.

Anonymous said...

Many undergraduates interested in philosophy are (a) weird and (b) clueless about philosophy as an academic profession. Put these together and you have a sufficient explanation for the email.

As for your colleague (since you asked!), he or she seems to have an inflated conception of his/her importance. Trust me, no one--much less some organized band of undergraduates-- cares that much about what academics write.

729 said...

I'm unsure about what to say about the student's possible motives. At least the student asked directly for the CV, claiming that s/he was "told you've published a lot on the topic." No argument from hearsay for this student (nor just going by ratemyprofessor).

I guess it's the direct request that seems unusual to me. But it doesn't make me all that suspicious, just surprised. When one has an academia.edu account, which I have, one can get notifications whenever your name (or related info) comes up on a google or bing search. Using this function is not for the faint of heart. It tells you what the search terms are and the country of the searcher. In my case, people aren't asking me directly for anything anymore.

CTS said...

I think the request is surprising, but not suspect.

If you do not want to eamil him/her a copy, you might just reply and say something to the effect of "My c.v. is very lengthy and probably more than you want. If you are interested in my publications, drop by and I'll give you copies of the ones you think look interesting."

Anonymous said...

Seems like a case of you overestimating your own importance. Yeah, they're out to get you spiros. Get over yourself.

Spiros said...

The responses to this post have been really hilarious, especially the ones which accuse me of overestimating my importance and mistreating students. And of these, the ones which attribute to me the view that I clearly ascribe to my colleague are the best. Definitely made my day to come home to find this thread.... Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

I think we can add "paranoid" to the list of adjectives characterizing spiros.

Anonymous said...

This really is a strange collection of comments. If I received that email I would laugh and immediately trash it. But then again my students call me Ice Queen behind my back.

Anonymous said...

I've really come to have lowered expectations. At this point I basically consider any email that has an address, uses punctuation and capitalization, and doesn't use txt-speak or emoticons to be on the formal side.

Email her a link to the CV already.

Anonymous said...

"This really is a strange collection of comments. If I received that email I would laugh and immediately trash it. But then again my students call me Ice Queen behind my back."

I really hope no professor of philosophy would trash an email from some curious student asking for a CV. Talk about out of touch.

Anonymous said...

"This really is a strange collection of comments. If I received that email I would laugh and immediately trash it. But then again my students call me Ice Queen behind my back."

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

This really is a strange collection of comments. If I received that email I would laugh and immediately trash it. But then again my students call me Ice Queen behind my back.

And you wonder why the comment about insularity was made? Behavior like this.

-11:03 AM.

PA said...

I wish someone would call me "Ice Queen."

Anonymous said...

PA = ice queen.

Your wish, my command.

white_rabbit said...

I'm an undergraduate studying political philosophy, and I always read my Professor's CV's if I can find them. First, because like others have said, I like to look over other articles they have published on the subject they are teaching. And second, because the intellectual historian in me likes to see where they have studied, and under whom. This information wouldn't sway me in taking a course, I just find it very interesting, much like the Acknowledgments section of a book.

That said, I don't think that I would ever directly ask a Professor for their CV.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the nefarious motive was to send some professors into a tizzy about a totally benign request?

Some of these posts make it sound like we've got those sneaky, no-good undergraduates all figured out... Maybe they're sneaky enough to have us figured out.

Anonymous said...

"Also, do undergrads really do the kind of thing that Andrew Bailey and 10:49 describe? If so, I am not sure if I should feel bad for having been lazy or good for not having been a type A freak."

Feel good for not having been a type A freak, Anon 12:58. Maybe it's because I was at a relatively unknown SLAC, but my (recent) undergrad years were spent not giving a shit about CVs and professors' publications. The undergraduates in this thread who claim that they always try to read professors' CVs and journal publications should go buy a playstation and some beer.

Spiros said...

It's interesting that so few have addressed the question. How common is it for faculty to receive requests from undergrads for their CV? This is a first for me, after more years of teaching than I care to mention.

And to clarify for those who do not know how to read:
1. My CV is freely available on my faculty webpage and elsewhere.

2. The undergrad in question had not registered for the course he wrote to me about.

3. The student in question could have written to ask for offprints of my relevant publications (also available freely on my webpage, btw), or for some suggestions about what I've written that I'd recommend, or gone to the library to take out the book I've written on the subject, etc. But instead, he asked for a copy of my CV.

4. I've actually checked with people at my university, and have discovered that there indeed are student organizations-- some political some religious-- that gather information about professors (including CVs) for purposes of advising their members about professors to avoid or seek out.

To repeat for those who are especially dim: I'm not suggesting that anything "nefarious" is going on, nor am I claiming that students have no business looking at my CV, nor am I saying that my work is especially noteworthy or something that anyone should care about. I'm asking whether others have gotten requests like this, and, if so, how frequently.

more curious than type A said...

I haven't received that kind of request, but as an undergraduate, I certainly made requests like it. Why? I was curious what my teachers had written and where they had studied.

Anonymous said...

What's the big deal. You are tenured right? Surely you are not scared of this young kid, just cranky cuz u got a stick up your butt 24/7. Just give him the link to your online CV and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

Yo prof, I'm the dude who sent you the e-mail. Listen u silly paranoid jerk, I have an older brother as a grad student, and he advised me one good way of finding good profs to take courses from is to look at his CV for his publications, to see if his research interests pique my interest (and also to check up on the number of citations in google scholar as a rough estimate of his stature in the field).

Now instead of taking your course, I will be spamming your ratings on ratemyprofessor.com. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

No I'M the student who sent you the email. That other one is an impostor. I wanted your CV hoping to get your address and phone number. I think you are dreamy.

Anonymous said...

Who said that they were designed to provide undergrads with information...?

11:03 did.

And I still think "insular" was a odd choice for an insult in this context.

@2:08, your last sentence pretty much captures my thoughts exactly. Also, I am pretty certain that I had no idea what a CV was when I was an undergrad...

English Jerk said...

I've never gotten a request for my c.v., though I've had students talk to me about things I've written that they tracked down on their own. And given how easy it is to do so, it's no surprise that good students don't need me to hold their hand when they want to find out what I've written.

I wouldn't be inclined to send this student my c.v., based on that email, because they didn't indicate why they wanted it. If they specified that they wanted to know what I'd written on a particular topic, I'd just email them back with the relevant references. I can't see any other legitimate purpose that wouldn't be served better by meeting with me in person or coming to my class. This email smacks of the shameless sense of privilege one can also observe in some of the above comments from undergraduates.

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to see how anything like a "shameless sense of privilege" is revealed by this polite request for a CV, a request that doesn't strike me as out of the ordinary at all.

Undergraduates have all the interests in reading CVs that graduate students and faculty do: seeing what a teacher has written, where it was published and when, where s/he went to school, what interests s/he has, what courses s/he teaches, what kind of awards or grants s/he has received, what kind of conferences s/he goes to, and on.

Not all undergraduates care about this kind of information, but clearly some of them do (these are the ones who become graduate students, one suspects).

Anonymous said...

Spiros: one of the people ripping on you (11:56). Thanks for clarifying. Point 1 seems especially relevant (note: I don't see anywhere in the post where you mention this).

I've never had a student request to see my CV, but I've had students mention to me that they looked at papers posted on my CV/ website.

Seems appropriate to send the student a link to your CV and mention that there's links to your papers.

For the record, I like your posts. I just like to rip on you to see you get all pissy. You know you love it <3

Anonymous said...

Except for the use of this blog's natural language, English Jerk once again shows yet again that the appellation is inappropriate if not contradictory.

My name is anonymous and I approve English Jerk's message.

wv: ammugh, as what the appellation of my mirror image is

Anonymous said...

4:13 and 4:23:

No--I am Spiros!

(See Roy Sorenson's beautiful article in the Oct. Analysis.)

wv: undeche, one letter away from my own self-ascription

Spiros said...

And, fyi, Gowder definitely wins this thread.

Anonymous said...

@: January 7, 2011 4:13 PM

I'm just glad to know that undergrads who talk like the guys from Dude Where's My Car? are only willing to take classes with professors of sufficient "stature in the field." They'll background check their future managers at MacDonald's, too.

Enjoy the class of 2015, my more statured colleagues!

Anonymous said...

Here's another idea that I don't think has been mentioned: maybe the student was looking for a template to help him/her construct his/her own resume. I never requested CVs for this purpose because I was always able to find quite a few online, but it would be another legitimate reason why a student might want this.

Either way, there seems to be no legitimate reason for not honoring this student's request. Even if he wanted to scan your CV because s/he thought you had extreme political beliefs, all of the information on the CV is public knowledge--it's just collected in one place. I wish more of my students would request my CV or check up on the qualifications of their professors.

Lemon said...

I would have laughed had I received such an email. It is a *strange* request, nevermind his real (most likely very harmless) motives. At best, it is really tacky to directly request to see a CV of potential profs. Like it or not, such a request is disrespectful to the prof whose credentials (schools he attended, jobs he held) should never be openly questioned, or appear to be questioned, by student's deeply inquiring minds. "If this prof good enough to teach me?"
For the same reason it would be tacky to ask a physician, during a first face-to-face meeting, where he attended med school and where else he had been employed. Read about that shit on-line, if you can find it, but direct requests for "career history" are so fucking presumptuous.

Anyhow, I would have replied: "if you want to talk to me about my research interests, my office hours are..." If the CV pestering continues--hit the delete button.

Anonymous said...

Clarification here, by an undergrad who posted above (1:59):

I wouldn't check a CV to see if a professor's qualified. As has been pointed out, I and other undergrads are hardly in a position to judge a professor's competence, and given the choice of assuming that a given professor is or isn't qualified, I'm definitely going to choose the first.

However, there are other reasons to check a CV. I take courses I think are interesting, and given that professors who teach courses often/usually publish in the area which is that course's subject (except at the intro level), I therefore also often find things which are interesting within a professor's CV. That's why an undergrad looking at a CV, without knowing anything about motivation, seems neither implausible nor offensive.

However, in this case it really does look like the undergrad is 'checking up' on the professor; hence, it seems offensive. A charitable interpretation might be that the undergrad just wants to see if the subject's Spiros' 'passion', or something. But it's still not something I'd implicitly question over email (or in any direct way). Plus, it's dumb not to check the department website for online info.

Anonymous said...

A full CV is different than the public one you put on your website. A full CV usually contains information about university committee work, dissertations directed, searches chaired, tenure-cases reviewed, and a whole lot else that no one not bound to recognize the discreetness with which such information must be handled should be privy to. There's no way I'd make my full CV available to any undergraduate.