I really should not feel compelled to write a post about respecting students. It should be a no-brainer, however, I am appalled at the way I see and hear faculty treat students time and again.
At the post-secondary level, it is important that we remember that students are our customers and they are here because they want to be here. They are not perfect and many often need help learning how to adjust to the demands and culture of higher education. My experience has been when you truly care about the students you teach, they will work incredibly hard in your class and will usually meet and, oftentimes, exceed the expectations you have set for them and the class.
Regardless, though, there is NEVER a good excuse for a faculty member to ever treat a student disrespectfully. Faculty attempt to do this is very condescending ways that can come close to belittling students. Usually, faculty are very short with students in email - sending a message that they are being bothered or really do not want to be disturbed. They use convoluted responses that the student cannot make heads or tails of and use multi-syllable words the student has to look up to understand.
Quoting the syllabus is a typical initial response from faculty with these behavior patterns. They like to use the syllabus as a defense mechanism rather than have to use an ounce of rationale judgment quickly noting that other students might use the same excuse (such as being in the hospital).
These types of behaviors do not create a culture where students feel safe or one that is conducive to learning. Likewise, students simply do not like faculty who treat them in these ways. Students do not learn from faculty they do not like. Think about how you are around people in your life (that one member of your family whom you cannot stand, the arrogant know-it-all who actually knows nothing at work, etc.) that you do not like. It doesn't matter what they say, you have a hard time being receptive to what they may think or believe.
Bottomline, respecting students is an issue of professionalism and manners. Would you respond to the President of your institution, your Dean or Chair the way you responded to that student? You should respond to every single person, regardless of their position, rank, or power of authority, with the same level of respect because you have self-respect and you are a professional.
Dr. Niki Bray
A Christian woman who loves Jesus and is driven to learn, lead, and serve.