'Dear student, here's what I really think': online therapy proves a hit

Academics are turning to Facebook and Twitter as outlets for frustration. Sarah Cunnane reports

August 18, 2011

Academics who have ever been tempted to ask a student: "What the fuck is up with you, kid?" or politely remind colleagues: "There is such a thing as a stupid question" are finding social-media outlets for their gripes and grumbles.

A Facebook group titled "That's 'Professor' Uptight to you, Johnny" was originally set up as a form of "therapy" for underappreciated academics.

A scholar writing on the site explains that, although the lecturers posting love their jobs and their students, the group is an important pressure valve.

"Sometimes, the same old behaviors become tiresome, and to be able to engage in a little black humour and share advice within a virtual community that cannot be found face to face is a meaningful way to connect," she writes.

The members of the group post responses to imaginary students "Johnny" or "Janie", rather than naming the real subjects of their frustration.

One academic, upon receiving an email from a student asking whether they had missed anything in class, imagines the reply: "I want to assure you that, of course, we didn't do anything important. We just stared out the window for three hours in silence."

Another tells of a student who claimed she had gone home - a six-hour journey - to take care of her baby niece as her brother-in-law was seriously ill.

Finding that a colleague had received an email at exactly the same time telling them that the same student needed time off to go to her brother-in-law's funeral, the lecturer grew understandably suspicious and checked on her whereabouts.

"When we see you sitting in another class one hour after the exam for my class, this does not bode well for your future," she writes in her imagined response to the feckless undergraduate. She adds: "Note: do not register for any class of mine ever again."

Students are not the only targets of online ire. One lecturer writes to a parent: "Dear Johnny's Mom, Please stop calling me to ask why I haven't graded the work Johnny hasn't turned in yet."

The Facebook group is mirrored by a number of anonymous Twitter accounts, including @WorstProfessor, who berates his students: "Stop writing English papers about what you learned from your parents' divorce. Nobody gives a shit. Your mom is single. I get it."

Another account, @AnnoyedPRProf, is used by a group of lecturers in public relations to post gripes and imagined responses to their students and colleagues alike.

One tweet sarcastically says: "I just love it when my fellow faculty spam my email with worthless announcements and personal diatribes."

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com.

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