A college professor nearly tore the internet asunder when she bemoaned the lack of proper email etiquette among modern-day students, drawing both passionate agreement and fiery condemnation on Twitter.
Brittney Cooper, associate professor at Rutgers University and author of Beyond Respectability and Eloquent Rage, posed the question to her nearly 150,000 followers on Tuesday.
“Why don’t modern college kids know how to send a formal letter/email?” Cooper tweeted. “I thought everyone knew to begin Dear Prof. X or Dear Dr. X. Instead these kids stay emailing me Hello There! Or Hello (no name): Why are they like this?”
The tweet quickly divided readers, some of whom interpreted Cooper’s message as elitist and focused on the wrong elements of education.
“i pay $20,000 a year to email you and i’m gonna write it however i want,” @crunchyf4g responded to Cooper. “if im emailing you its because i need help, so fucking help me. why does it matter ?????”
“Maybe because our profs email us like ‘sure. Sent from my iphone,’” @fvck12xo added. “If you have certain expectations for email etiquette make that clear on day 1 of class. Every prof is different.”
Others, especially those also in academia, sided with Cooper, bemoaning the lack of professionalism among their students.
“I had to take time in class to discuss how to address an envelope. Stunned,” Dr. Kathy Lee tweeted. “I think they may have only filled out forms online, sent in apps online. Don’t even get me started about how emails begin. I get ‘Hey!’”
Jessica Pabón, a fellow Ph.D., commiserated and shared an anecdote that infuriated many readers.
“I used to do this thing where I would walk into class, throw student papers in the air, and walk out,” she told Cooper. “Give them a moment to be like wtf just happened. Then I’d come back in and say ‘this is what it’s like when you email me without a salutation, explanation, or subject line.’”
Pabón later shared a screenshot of an email she sent to her former students, complaining that she was “being dragged on Twitter” for her response to Cooper. She asked her former students to give her a good grade on RateMyProfessor, since other Twitter users were allegedly dredging up old screenshots of her bad ratings to use against her. Pabón has since made her Twitter private.
Cooper’s email etiquette tweet now has more than 6,600 quote tweets, many of them responding negatively to her query. One Twitter user insisted that “nobody gives a fuck in the real world,” while another proclaimed that “academics and ‘professionalism’ can suck my cock.”
In a viral tweet, clothing maker @OgLakyn wrote, “A LOT of Black women who achieve power in academia, politics, and the corporate world are assholes. And I’m sure part of it is because they HAD to be but at some point the ‘all my life I had to fight’ turns into ‘I did it why can’t you’ and they SUCK.”
The Cooper backlash does not present a tidy “Twitter dunks on new villain” narrative in the vein of, say, Bean Dad. As Cooper noted in a series of follow-up tweets, because she is a Black woman in academia, the vitriolic responses she received were arguably disproportionate to the contents of her original message—which was that Black women in academia deserve to be addressed by their name and title.
“I do think folks should reflect on why a tweet that was really about me asking to be addressed by my name and title as a Black woman in academe received thousands of retweets (and a few hate emails telling me I ain’t shit and that I’m terrible to students),” she wrote.
“Academe has a record of extreme violence toward Black women,” Cooper continued. “Folks want us to bend over backwards to be generous, caring, kind but the minute we ask for a modicum of respect or dare to assert a standard of treatment we are ridiculed, attacked, gaslighted, bullied & disrespected.”
Cooper did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
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