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Is This Unprofessional From a Professor?


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I had a professor email me in the middle of the night, a professor that so happens to be one of my thesis readers. Anyway, in his email he chided me for not being a "giving Christian" because I do not have an extroverted, bubbly personality. That Christians have an obligation to be giving and out going, and because I am not outwardly as such, ergo bad Christian.

I followed up with an email asking for clarification and really taken back by all of this. I acknowledged that I am a reserved person but that obviously he's speaking to something much deeper than this. I asked if we could meet to talk about this. He responded that he neither has the time nor inclination to grant such a request.

Here's a slightly edited (for privacy) series of emails:

1) I sent him and the other readers a digital copy of my thesis, along with a note that printed copies will be placed in their faculty boxes. I also personally thanked said professor because he lost his wife last year but also  because he wrote some LOR for me, along with editing my thesis. He's been very helpful up to this point and so his email below really took me for a loop.


2) His response:

I also want to to also understand, [name], that I have gone well beyond the "extra mile" with you in this process, for the simple reason that it is what I should do as one who seeks to mentor you in this Christian pilgrimage.  Being a Christian, of any sort, implies being a giving person.  You have not been a very giving person, [name]. You have with-held yourself from others, both in class and otherwise.  In response to the kindnesses you have been shown,  I place you under holy obligation to do differently, in so far it is within your power to do so.


3) My response:

Would it be possible for us to meet when you're on campus so that we may discuss this? 

I know that I'm not an extroverted , freely talking individual. That said, you're obviously referencing something beyond this and I don't clearly know what that is.


4) Final response:

I am referring precisely  to what you identified in your reply.  You need to push yourself a more to contribute in class and participate otherwise in the life of community. It is too easy for you to sit back, hold back, and let things go back.

No one on the teaching faculty feels like they know you , [name].  That is not our fault, and ultimately it is not our problem. 

More than this I do not have time or inclination to say.


I've spoken with my advisor and shared this email with another professor, who both feel that the professor in this email is 1) wrong and 2) way out of line. We're a small school, very small in fact and while I can report this to the Dean (one of them have asked me to do), they did so stating that it would sour relationships permanently. As well, with me graduating there would be little to nothing done about it and while they would withhold approaching the professor until after my thesis defense, it's too late to and would raise too many red flags to remove him at this point.


I get his wanting me to be more outgoing but also, it just isn't my personality. Also, I think it's entirely unreasonable of him to expect everyone to be as such. As well, the whole "you have not been a very giving person" comes across as intentionally wanting to be hurtful.

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Yeah, this is unprofessional and way out of line. Wow. 

The contentful criticism "none of the faculty feel like they know you well" could be useful, though hardly at the very end of your time at the school; but the way it was put is anything but. If you're graduating and already have your next step lined up, it might be best to move on. Or if you choose to report this, I wouldn't do so until after you graduate, because you don't know how the reaction could affect your grade. If you might still need LORs from this person, unfortunately, he is in a position of power and you are not, so if you pursue this there might be more consequences for you than for him. 

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Definitely unprofessional and out of line. I also second everything @fuzzylogician said about potential further steps / reporting it. 

I do have one thought about your committee though: you said it would be too difficult to remove this professor from your committee? Perhaps my department operates very differently but if you ask him to leave your committee, it would only sour relationships between you and him, and no one else. However, if this professor is also very influential then they can talk poorly of you after you leave. By default, our thesis advisory committee is also our examining committee, but this is absolutely not necessary. No professor, except for the advisor has a "right" to be on any student's committee, so if an advisor+student both agree that someone should leave the committee, it happens. That said, if you need this person in your professional life, then there is not much you can do. I personally would choose to cut off all professional ties with this person if this happened to me, but that's just me (especially since I would not believe they would write a good letter at all, so I don't really need this person in my life).

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