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Jerk physics professor response

  • #51
104
0
Good morning everyone again. After taking everybody's suggestions into consideration, I responded to him this morning after he actually sent me a second email before I even had responded to his first a-hole email. From latest to earliest:
_________________________

(this is his second response)
“Mr. _____,

Normally, for a student to take graduate courses
in Physics the student should have completed all
the requirements for a B.S. degree in Physics.
Since you apparently have not, not taking graduate
physics courses would be logical step to take.

You do not need to apologize for anything. It is my
job to help students. Nothing is a burden for me.
My advice is that you need to take most of upper-division
physics courses to prepare you for graduate physics
courses. The Graduate Advisor should be able to guide
you in this regard.

Good luck,

Dr. ______”



(the email below was my response to his second email)

“Hello Dr. ______,
Thank you for the information. I apologize if I inconvenienced you with my original request. I purposefully sent a short email in order not to burden you with a long drawn out essay giving you my profile along with multiple attachments that would take too much of your time to go through. I know that your time is limited, but please understand that it was not my intention to put the burden of proof on you regarding assessing my qualifications. A short, general email on my part I thought might illicit a short, general response on your part- without going into too much details.
I had been in contact with the graduate advisor over the past months, but thought I could obtain a better idea from you of what I could expect from the modern optics course. I will be meeting with the graduate advisor early next month to discuss the courses I will be taking next semester.
Thank you once again for taking the time to read both of my emails and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Sincerely,
______”

(this email below is the second email he sent me this morning before I had even responded to his a-hole email)
“Mr. _______,

You need to make an appointment to discuss what
you should take with the Physics Graduate Advisor.

Dr._____”
 
  • #52
jbunniii
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
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Gold Member
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(this is his second response)
“Mr. _____,

Normally, for a student to take graduate courses
in Physics the student should have completed all
the requirements for a B.S. degree in Physics.
Since you apparently have not, not taking graduate
physics courses would be logical step to take.

You do not need to apologize for anything. It is my
job to help students. Nothing is a burden for me.
My advice is that you need to take most of upper-division
physics courses to prepare you for graduate physics
courses. The Graduate Advisor should be able to guide
you in this regard.

Good luck,

Dr. ______”
That sounds entirely reasonable. You must have caught him in a sour mood the first time and/or your polite follow-up chilled him out a bit. Or maybe the tone of his first e-mail was supposed to be different from how it came across. Anyway, his advice sounds good.
 
  • #53
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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4,508
I think this response by the professor has clearly proven those who think he is the devil is wrong. When we judge someone by one incident without knowing everything else on the other side of the coin, we will inevitably make an erroneous conclusion.

You have also shown a very mature approach, and I'm guessing that this little incident will be something valuable that you've learned. At this stage of your academic life, it is never a good step to burn any bridges the way some responders have indicated in this thread. These professors are not at your mercy. You are. You cannot afford to burn any bridges, because it is not uncommon for someone who initially you do not like who will turn out to be your strongest champion.

So, well done. You've done the most sensible thing and clarified your position. I'm sure this professor will feel a bit of regret for going off on you like that, and maybe he'll learn a thing or two about handling something similar in the future.

Zz.
 
  • #54
Borek
Mentor
28,447
2,842
Glad to read it ended this way.
 
  • #55
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
15
I'm sorry but if you don't think this guy is an jerk for answering an earnest question with such spite, well I don't know. Something about physics seems to attract a subset of people with abrupt and dislikable personalities- people who "get off" on seeing themselves as superior to others. Not all physicists but a large minority.

Do not take a class with this guy! And if his attitude is general of the department run from the school. Even if he has a point- you simply don't deal with people that way- especially complete strangers.

I'm amazed how people responding could possibly be supportive of the way the professor responded, regardless what was asked.
While the professors response could have been a little nicer, consider this. Professors are inundated with questions from students 1000 times worse than the email the OP sent. The OPs email could have been written better, but you must consider what your average professor has to deal with. I personally got a few emails this semester from students asking me where our department office is even though the night before I had told them it was LITERALLY right below the lab room we were in (If you got a pick-axe and started beating on the floor, you would have fallen right into it!). And apparently, the stupidity level of the students I have had don't compare to the stupidity level other instructors report.

The point is, professors have to deal with people who have the communicative skill slightly above a high schooler. It's tough to be too hard on the professor for this sort of response. Of course, again, he could have made an effort to write the e-mail in a more professional manner though.
 
  • #56
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
15
Oh damn how did I end up responding to something 3 pages earlier.

You know what woudl be funny? If that professor was on this board and saw this letter...
 
  • #57
2,571
1
Oh damn how did I end up responding to something 3 pages earlier.

You know what woudl be funny? If that professor was on this board and saw this letter...
I said that before you, no one laughed at it, no one should laughed at yours either, I TAKE ALL THE CREDIT.
 
  • #58
104
0
You've done the most sensible thing and clarified your position. I'm sure this professor will feel a bit of regret for going off on you like that, and maybe he'll learn a thing or two about handling something similar in the future.
Thank you all for the excellent advice. I am VERY glad it turned out ok and that I did not burn any bridges.
 
  • #59
411
1
I'm happy to know that everything ended up well :)
 
  • #60
308
0
have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Terrible mistake number two. Maybe he's jewish?
 
  • #61
104
0
Terrible mistake number two. Maybe he's jewish?
How am I supposed to know that? My intentions were not to offend, so there was no harm done
 
  • #62
308
0
But you broke the holy law of PCness.

They might let you live this time but you better watch it. Just keep to "happy holidays", that's what I've learned.
 
  • #63
104
0
But you broke the holy law of PCness.

They might let you live this time but you better watch it. Just keep to "happy holidays", that's what I've learned.
I smell a troll
 
  • #65
berkeman
Mentor
57,509
7,531
I smell a troll
I believe he's just kidding around, but he also has an interesting point about the PC-ness of wishing a stranger Merry Christmas. It shouldn't be an issue in most cases, but I can see his point of sticking with Happy Holidays. Whatever.
 
  • #66
104
0
I believe he's just kidding around, but he also has an interesting point about the PC-ness of wishing a stranger Merry Christmas. It shouldn't be an issue in most cases, but I can see his point of sticking with Happy Holidays. Whatever.
Thanks for the heads up. I guess we have to always be politically/"religiously" correct :)
 
  • #67
1,654
2
Thanks for the heads up. I guess we have to always be politically/"religiously" correct :)
No, we don't.
 
  • #68
1,086
2
Well, I guess this is what it comes down to these days. It seems it is acceptable and perfectly normal to respond to a stranger's polite question with a sarcastic and harsh response, but god forbid you wish him a Merry Christmas! Anything but that, please!
 
  • #69
305
0
edit: Oh it worked out. Never mind my suggestion. :rofl:
 
Last edited:
  • #70
243
2
The guy is a jerk. His latest reply to you does nothing to change that. In fact, he even made an obvious lie in his latest response. "Nothing burdens me." Yeah, right. He totally acted like he wasn't burdened by the original email the OP sent him.

I'm just a student myself, but I've interacted with enough professors on a variety of different levels to know that the good professors would never under any circumstances write an email like the original reply he sent you.

A good professor would have written something like this, which would have taken LESS TIME AND EFFORT than the reply he actually composed:

"Thank you for contacting me. I'd be glad to help you decide whether to take this course, but in the interest of making my response as helpful as it could be I kindly ask you to please send me more information about your background, including grades, how long it's been since you graduated, [insert very brief description of other info he wants.]

Best wishes and welcome to the program,
Dr. _____"

If he really didn't even want to answer the question at all, no matter how much information the OP replied (and this appears to be the case), he could have written

"Dear ____,

Thank you for contacting me. My honest opinion is that I cannot offer you any realistic advice on whether you should take the course; I simply do not know you and your background well enough. I apologize and understand this is not the response you were looking for, but I hope you can appreciate that I don't want to take any risk of misleading you and feel it is safer for you that I should refrain from offering specific advice at this time.

[The professor could offer to meet in person in his office at a time convenient for him, or could recommend the OP go see the graduate advisor, or a number of other options here.]

Best wishes and welcome to the program!
Dr. _____"

As it stands, both the OP and the professor would have been better served if the professor had not replied at all.

I would avoid him and his classes at all costs.

If any of you think this is acceptable behavior for a professor towards a student, then I guess you haven't had the honor of being acquainted with some of the wonderful professors who have been my teachers and who would never address a student like this.

Just because some behavior occurs a lot in some sector of life doesn't mean it's justified or acceptable or morally okay. I'm absolutely shocked to find how many people here don't understand this.

Should I one day be in the position of this professor, I hope I remember this thread and avoid his example.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #71
143
0
I'm guessing it's not a very good graduate program. Seriously, what kind of graduate student would ask something like that.

Tell him that it was your wife that sent that and she is an idiot.
 

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