My problem: Though it's made explicitly clear to my students that I do not accept late work and do not grant extensions, I get at least 5-10 e-mails a week asking about extensions. I want to deter these emails, I feel obligated to respond, but my response is usually "See the syllabus regarding missed assignments". Dealing with this is costly in terms of time spent replying and clearing my inbox.

I make it very, very clear in my syllabus that I do not give extensions for assignments under any circumstances except limited administration excused cases and that I will not respond to requests (a blatant lie, I do respond because I care what they think of me and the course). I remind my students at the beginning and end of every class of their impending deadlines. I also regularly remind my students in class that deadlines matter and there are no extensions and no late work. My assignments are brief, and are available for over a week for the student to attempt, I don't feel my demands are unreasonable. I stress in the syllabus and in class that the way I accommodate the various life issues that cause missed deadlines is that I will drop their lowest X assignments, where X is a very generous number

My question: is it unfair of me to put a syllabus clause that specifies a minor penalty for e-mail inquiries regarding an exception to the deadline rule? Something along the lines of "Each e-mail inquiry asking for an extension on a late assignment may be subject to a Z point penalty on your overall homework grade" where Z is not an unreasonable number.

Would I be a total jerk? Is there a better way of solving my problem?

  • 7
    Seems like it would be more of a pain to assess the penalty than to just ignore them. Nov 6, 2018 at 22:39
  • I don't disagree with that !
    – Hessian
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:39
  • Is it unfair? IMHO no. Is it something a jerk would do? IMHO yes. How about an autoresponse (only to student addresses) saying "thanks for your email, I normally expect to reply within $time, but I will not reply if your question is answered in the documentation"?
    – Flyto
    Dec 6, 2018 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


A colleague had a phrase along the lines of:

"Any email question or request that is already answered in the course documentation will not be replied to".

Seemed to work well for him.

But I would not do any type of downgrading for that.

Students do talk to each other and it soon gets around "well don't send that, as it won't be answered.."

Relevant questions that did warrant a response did get answered to the student and, sometimes, repeated to the class as necessary.

  • I'm editing my statement above, I already say that I won't reply to the e-mails, but I just feel so bad ignoring them. Maybe I should just stop caring?
    – Hessian
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:20
  • 1
    My colleague had good feedback from the students for his courses so it did not mean that he did not care or that the students did not appreciate him... An occasional reminder does not hurt.
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:22
  • I do appreciate the suggestion, but I already have that in the syllabus and it clearly is doing little for me. I'm not sure my deterrence policy would do any better.
    – Hessian
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:24
  • 1
    Reply to the "good" or "useful" questions and let the others lie. Some questions will be useful enough to bring up at the next class : " Had this question, which highlights X, so let's look at that for a moment"...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 6, 2018 at 22:27

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