I'm a fourth year undergraduate philosophy student.

Last academic-year, I took a seminar with a professor that I had known reasonably well before I took the course. During that seminar we had several lengthy after-class conversations about a topic related to the seminar. The professor seemed to enjoy the conversations, and I think we developed a good relationship (as far as undergraduate student-professor relationships go).

I plan to write an essay and submit it to an undergraduate journal in December. I know that the topic of the essay is interesting to the professor and covers some unconsidered possibilities that the professor expressed interest in during our conversations. That is to say, I think he'd enjoy thinking about what I plan to write about.

This professor is the only one in our department knowledgeable about the subject, so I can't ask anyone else for their thoughts on the essay. Unfortunately, he's on sabbatical this year.

Would it be rude to email the professor in order to ask him whether I might discuss my argument with him a few times during this term?

  • 10
    It's rarely rude to ask "would you be interested...". It's rude to pester them after they've declined.
    – keshlam
    Sep 10, 2015 at 22:44
  • 4
    He's on sabbatical, not hibernation. In my experience, intellectuals are always happy to engage in a classic debate. It's what we live for. Literally!
    – corsiKa
    Sep 11, 2015 at 15:02

3 Answers 3


No, I don't think it's rude at all.

A sabbatical is not meant as a complete vacation from work. Rather, it's a time for the professor to focus on scholarly work without the distraction of teaching or (usually) administrative duties.

I'd say that asking the professor to comment on your essay is definitely a scholarly activity, and so it's a reasonable request.

Of course, it's up to the professor whether he actually wants to do it or not, or if he has time to do it given his other activities. Don't be offended if he declines. Also keep in mind that many professors travel extensively during sabbaticals, or spend the entire time at another institution, so even if he is interested, he may not be able to meet with you in person - you may have to discuss it over email, Skype, etc.

  • 2
    Yep--I like staying in touch with my more precocious students even during my breaks. At worst I would be too busy and just politely decline.
    – neuronet
    Sep 11, 2015 at 1:46
  • It's up to the professor if he wants to, or if he has time. Exactly the same as if he wasn't on sabbatical.
    – corsiKa
    Sep 11, 2015 at 15:03

You can certainly ask, but your professor might or might not be interested in helping with this. If I got a similar request I'd almost certainly say yes, but your professor might have a different attitude and more extensive obligations.

I'd encourage you to go ahead and ask politely.


If you say that you knew the professor prior to the seminar, and engaged them in discussion outside of the seminar, then you have a more personal relationship than just a "cold call" email to some random academic that you have not interacted with. So a query to discuss the idea would likely not be unwelcome.

That being said, sabbaticals are sometimes take for issues of personal health or other life events. If you have a good relationship with another one of the department faculty then a quick knock on the door to see if they think your former professor is reachable wouldn't hurt either. If nothing else approaching the department chair will get you an answer one way or the other, as they will be in the best position to know that professor's current status.

I would also say that you probably shouldn't dive right into the request. If the sabbatical is not related to health, then a sentence or two asking how the professor's time off has been and what project they are working on may be appropriate as it shows interest beyond just obtaining their time and help.

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