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I had an academic issue during the week and I reached out about via text (he is okay with this method of communication. In fact, he gave me his number without me asking for it). I reached out to him on a Thursday at about 5:00pm, during regular business hours. However, he did not get back to me until 10:00pm on a Saturday night. This really bothered me. I valued our relationship between each other and wanted nothing more than to be strictly professional. Even though I reached out to him on Thursday, I wouldn’t have minded a reply Sunday or even Monday morning.

Am I overreacting in this situation?


Thank you for your feedback, as it has been particularly helpful. I believe that this is plenty on me to reflect on; however, due to my disability, I do feel a little overwhelmed at the moment.

With that said, I appreciate everyone’s feedback and I will use this information to further reflect on my question and concerns regarding this situation.

Thank you all very much for your time.

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9 Answers 9

77

Unlike phone calls, texting is seen (by most people) as asynchronous, like email. You text when you can. The receiver responds when and if they can. I see nothing wrong with the the other person's behavior unless they expected an immediate reply. I doubt that they would have such an expectation.

He may not have read your previous text until just before sending his. He may have had some moments to create a reply late on Saturday.

Just don't feel obligated to reply immediately. Had I been the recipient I wouldn't even have seen the text until the next morning. Relax.

8
  • 8
    Many of my Stack Exchange comments (but not this comment) are made very early -- often between 1 AM and 3 AM -- because I get up very early (even earlier than this) and I frequently check email and Stack Exchange and such before going to a nearby 24-hour gym for 1-2 hours (when at most one other person might be there, and often it's only me). Should I be concerned that others will know when I post, knowing from my profile where I live and thus what time zone I'm in? :) Jan 31 at 14:32
  • 4
    "Unlike phone calls, texting is seen (by most people) as asynchronous, like email." Indeed. And yet, it baffles me that many texting/messenger apps still miss some basic features required for asynchronous communication, such as a simple "mark as unread, so that I don't forget to take care of this later" button.
    – Heinzi
    Feb 1 at 6:28
  • 8
    It will be better for you to elaborate why it's a misuse. I perfectly understand the post as it is and see no big problem. @Scorb Feb 1 at 6:29
  • 5
    @Scorb I suggest you clarify what you think it's wrong and how you think it should be corrected.
    – Chris H
    Feb 1 at 6:56
  • 3
    @Scorb: Dictionary.com has the definition "2 - (especially in education) occurring or able to be completed independently according to a person’s own self-paced schedule or within a broad window of time, but not coordinated to be completed in real time with another participant"... Feb 1 at 9:01
26

Was the answer in any way unprofessional? If not, I would rather say that you are overreacting. Also, what is the difference between a message on a sunday (OK in you opinion) and a message on a Saturday night?

Some people have a very busy life and send messages whenever they find the time. I have myself written mails and messages at odd times (like at 4 in the morning or also on a saturday night). It would be a much different thing if he had called you, or, if he had expected you to reply straight away. But like this, and if it is a single occurence, you are probably reading way too much into it.

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  • 2
    For what its worth, regional culture and/or religious practices can make either Saturday or Sunday considered a non-business day in which business related material would be considered inappropriate, but the other day to be perfectly acceptable.
    – David S
    Jan 31 at 23:22
25

I think your complaint is unwarranted. Your TA is a student just like you, undoubtedly balancing a lot of demands on their time, just like you. Instructors and TAs get lots of requests for help and they often batch them up when they finally have time -- and that's often the weekend. What you learned is that your TA takes the job seriously enough to work on the weekend, even late into the night. Be thankful you have such a dedicated TA.

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  • 7
    This strikes me as rather harsh. I could understand how a student might see a late night message and think "gosh, should I be working all hours of the weekend?" It's an honest question, I don't think the questioner is being "unappreciative".
    – Rdd
    Jan 31 at 13:49
  • 2
    @E.Rei Sometimes, the truth isn't what people want to hear but it doesn't mean it's not true. Would you like it better if I lied and agreed the TA was being "unprofessional"? That would make them come back for more agreements with any new complaints? Jan 31 at 15:12
  • 6
    You seem to have conflated your personal judgement of a person's personality who you've never met with the objective absolute truth. I'd like it better if people could answer questions without going out of their way to launch personal attacks at the people asking them. Personal preference.
    – E. Rei
    Jan 31 at 15:15
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    @E.Rei Not true. I characterized the behavior, not the person. The behavior, complaining about a response late Saturday, communicates (perhaps unintentionally) a sense of entitlement rather than appreciation for a TA who is working late on weekends to provide help. Fwiw, I don't appreciate you attacking me because you don't like my opinion. Jan 31 at 15:17
  • 16
    @DavidS I stand by my views. Complaining that a TA who was kind enough to give their cell phone number to a student and takes time to answer on Saturday night was "unprofessional" is simply unacceptable. It reeks of entitlement. If a student complained that way about a TA working for me in one of my classes, they would owe the TA an apology. Feb 1 at 0:01
14

Not unless you have established your intolerance for such texts explicitly.

Also, a more common complaint in your scenario would be that it took them so long to respond if the expectations for the delay were set to one business day - which is also not always applicable.

There is nothing unprofessional in their behavior - at least not from what you have described. If you have some communication needs or preferences, make them clear. State at what hours do you find texts and calls normal or when e-mails are preferable. I do not mind calls at 11 PM on pretty much any week day but 9 AM calls on Monday might disrupt my sleep - therefore, I ask people not to do so and, ideally, use asynchronous means of communication unless we have made some arrangements.

What seems reasonable to you is not necessarily reasonable for everyone, and academia is great in that it has very flexible work hours. Please do not force everyone to work 9 to 5 just because that is how you and "all reasonable people" work.

8

I think giving a student from class your personal phone number for texting is not very professional. I wouldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t advise others to do it, unless there’s a clear good reason for it (eg you’re chaperoning a trip and so people might need to get ahold of you in an emergency).

That said I don’t see why replying on Saturday night is more unprofessional than any other time outside of business hours. That said I haven’t read the text or been around for your other interactions, you might have a good reason to be concerned, but the Saturday night thing on its own doesn’t strike me as unusual.

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  • 7
    I think giving a student from class your personal phone number for texting is not very professional. - I wouldn't give out my personal phone number either, but my university no longer provides me an office phone number to give out. I think if a teacher/TA chooses to give out their phone number to the whole class, it's more being kind than unprofessional. But if it's just to select students for no solid reason, then yes, unprofessional.
    – Kimball
    Jan 31 at 22:46
  • 1
    That's a fair point. Personally I'd much rather go through the university LMS or the university email, but I agree that putting your phone number on the syllabus is much less concerning than giving it individually to a student. Feb 1 at 1:48
5

Texting is informal. If you prefer more formal communication, stick to email.

Of course, people may also send emails whenever they wish. But it might be easier for you to not check your emails than to not monitor your text messages.

3

In addition to all the other great answers (asynchronous like email, dedicated enough to respond when they find the time, etc.), consider technical aspects as well.

Texting was originally much more on an immediate thing - I consider it an evolution of pagers, which started as just a tone, then a number, then alphanumeric, but all based on getting a message to someone right now.

But the technology has evolved into something much closer to email. There is no guarantee of delivery time with email - it can range from a few seconds to hours or even days. Texting often has the same problems: I received some texts this morning at 5:55am. Fortunately, my alarm was set for 6:00am so it didn't matter much. I responded to the last text and then scrolled back and realized several other texts had come in at the same time, and then found out that the sender had sent them all ~ 12 hours earlier and had absolutely no intention of waking me up. It is possible that your 5:00pm text was received in the middle of the night or the next morning. It is possible that the response was sent on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

However, unlike email, there are no headers or metadata that we can look at (the cell phone companies likely have the information, but normal users can't see it) to determine when it was sent, which hops delayed delivery, etc.

In general, I prefer email, as I can see it on multiple devices - including on a computer if I am in a place with poor cell phone reception - and because it allows far more organization of messages. If your TA is OK with email, stick to email and you won't get bothered by text messages at strange times. If your TA strongly prefers text messages, consider that strange times may actually be beyond his control.

0

At my university there are definitely rules. Work with children check is also required so anything that could be considered as pitential grooming is not to be done (‘grooming’ is well defined andvteachers bothnin Highschools and university have to be vigilant for any signs that student may be experiencing abuse and similarly that they’re not engagingnin any behaviour that may be part of ‘grooming’ - so no ‘special’ treatment or interest is to be shared with any particulat student - tge university has deficated services to help students)

-1

The time/day is not the issue. If there is an issue here, is that they’ve given you their phone number and that you’ve gven them theirs. If uncomfortable, simply delete their messages and block the number and learn from the experience.

I see that many here don’t see an issue with exchange of phone numbers that has occurred here. I personally do and it would not happen where I live/work (even emailing from a private rather than work email address is not seen as ideal).

And yes the TA’s likely a nice person and means well. The rules however exist for a reason.

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  • Which rules? The point is that there are no universal rules. Don't get me wrong, I would not give out my number to the students, but you make it sound like everybody must agree on that. Feb 6 at 19:31
  • @SeverinSchraven theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/20/…
    – AnyAD
    Feb 7 at 0:01
  • I agree that if the rules are set up by the university, then there is no discussion. As you may have noticed the article only references to a couple of universities. And I know more than just a handful universities in continental Europe that do not have such rules and where even romantic relationships between students and TAs are fine. I doubt the OP would post such a question here if rules like this existed at their university. Feb 7 at 7:01
  • I’d rather not make assumptions. The fact is that the OP is uncomfortable. That the rules may not yet exist at their university does not necessarily make it right. The rules don’t exist likely because everyone has dismissed concerns for decades.
    – AnyAD
    Feb 7 at 8:21
  • And instead of discussing wether it is aopropriate for a TA to engage with a student in this way, we have ‘senior’ faculty screeming ‘the TA’s intensions are pure’. Women teporting actual abuse were not believed hystirically and what has the favulty learned? Nothig of course.
    – AnyAD
    Feb 7 at 8:24

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