I am an undergraduate student in India who is struggling to get professors to reply to my emails. I believe that my emails are well-drafted. Here is an example:

Dear Professor X,

I am Y, a student in your Machine Dynamics and Vibrations class.

Is it possible to make the recorded lectures on MS Teams available to us so that we can revisit the lectures in case we have doubts, sir?

Thank you.

Warm regards

I never received a reply to this. Some other emails that I have sent were related to technical issues during online tests, a result that I got as part of research, and an email to my department head which addressed questions regarding extra credits transfer, thesis work etc, all of which are important and urgent. I never received a reply to any of them (these emails were all sent to different professors).

This is not just my experience. Other students who try to contact professors in my department via email, be it a question about the course material or a question about the exam syllabus, some of the professors simply don't respond.

It is common for students to directly message the professor on WhatsApp. I try to avoid this since it feels like I am impinging, but I have found that some professors respond exclusively to WhatsApp messages and nothing else. But some others don't even respond to this.

I avoid calling as much as possible. In the few situations that I have had to call, the professors didn't seem very irritated, but since I have not done this much, it's hard to generalize.

Due to COVID, a face-to-face conversation is out of the question.

Some options I have considered:

  • Contacting the department head, but he is also quite similar in this regard. I contacted him about information regarding extra credits and such, but never received any reply.

  • Making this issue known in our class committee meeting (a meeting between a few student representatives per class and the professors to discuss class progress and any issues faced by either the students or the professors) but I find that in these meetings, simple suggestions go unheeded (after repeated begging to add a lock to the girl's washroom, it never happened) or professors become outright hostile if any problems against them are raised.

  • I can probably take it up with the academic Dean (a sort of head to the various department heads) but again, professors here are generally serious and don't take criticism well. I am worried that this might affect my grades (this has happened to other students in the past).

At this point, I am happy with the rare monosyllabic responses I get from professors. What do I do to fix this? I appreciate answers from anyone here but if there is an Asian POV, I would specially appreciate it. Thank you.

Other info that might be useful:

  • Some other colleges have policies regarding not responding to students' emails, but mine doesn't.
  • 1
    There may be a cultural aspect involved here. Perhaps an article such as 1stopasia.com/blog/… may help you. – DCTLib Feb 20 at 18:15
  • 2
    For that example email, if there is no response, the answer is probably no. The prof probably wouldn't want to reply because he/she does not want to get into an extended discussion on why the answer is 'no'. Alternatively, the answer probably exists somewhere on the course web-site or that he/she has mentioned it and you missed it. Profs don't reply for many other reasons as well. – Prof. Santa Claus Feb 20 at 21:01

I cannot give an Asian perspective, but the situation you describe was quite common in many universities thirty or more years ago, at least in my country. Students were not supposed to have rights, and many professors would simply ignore most of the students queries or requests, whatever the medium used to deliver them (emails were not so common in those days). And the situation was even worse in the humanities where I had some friends (and I've been told that a few bad habits have survived to the present).

Since also the university was unresponsive to complaints, the most common solution at the time was to ambush a professor at their department, frequently sneaking into the department (since one wouldn't know when the professor was in, students would sometimes take turns to avoid missing them). Indeed, this is not a fix to the problem: it's just a survival strategy, which would hardly work and be recommendable in these COVID-19 times.

I'm afraid, though, that alone you would not be able to do more then the above survival strategy. In my experience, the only thing that works—at least partially—when a university shows such generalized level of unresponsiveness is when students unionize en masse and make a strong action (common actions are occupation of the university, contacting media and such). Indeed, the possibility and the chance of success of such an action depend on the political climate in your country, in the willingness of all students to participate in such an action and in the possibility of finding a strong leadership within the union.

A base action, suitable for these unlucky times, would be that of preparing a document describing the problems, and signed by as many students as possible, to be presented by your representatives at the class meetings. The representatives should go well prepared and should be able to choose the right time to present the complaints (in my experience, students frequently miss the right moment and are frequently out-of-phase with respect to the agenda of committee meetings). Send your document also to the Dean and, possibly, also to the media, finding someone who would be willing to side you and follow your cause if nothing happens. Indeed, before doing any of the above, you should estimate the probability of success on the basis of your knowledge of the situation, the chances of retaliations for those involved and whether it's worth it, taking also into account the time that doing all this would take: pick your battles carefully.

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