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Sunday, December 10, 2023


Learn from this UH professor: Professionalism in emails is crucial

Professor Email

Francis Emelogu/The Cougar

There’s a time and place for everything, especially humor. UH professor Cyrus Contractor sent out an email to his students before Spring Break with an ill-received attempt at humor. The incident served as a gentle reminder to professors and students to remain professional when communicating.

According to Breitbart News Network, Contractor sent out a reminder to students from his University email account with a cartoon “letter.” Under item six of the email reminders, Contractor wrote, “I’ve just recently come across a rough draft of Senator Cotton’s letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I believe it can be useful for our understanding of what is really happening here,” and asked students to read the attachment.

Attached to his email for his Middle East Politics class, which primarily discussed info concerning the upcoming midterm exam, Contractor included a letter that read: “Dear Iran guys, We are writing because Obama makes us mad! And most of us R TRAITORS signed GOP Senators Cotton x Pals Do You Like us Y N.”

In a statement from UH, Contractor apologized for his email.

“As my students know, I like to keep things light and jovial in class,” Contractor wrote. “That being said, the attachment was an ill-conceived attempt at humor regarding the biggest news item of the day. I sincerely apologize for its offensive nature.”

There are a few things that professors can get away within the confines of the classroom, and humor can be one of them. People have a clearer understanding of humor in a face-to-face setting than over the context of an email.

In the context of race, sex, religion and politics, there’s minimal room for any comical commentary. Any and all attempts at humor have to be approached with caution. Sometimes, it’s best to leave humor out of the equation.

The fictional letter was brought to the attention of Breitbart because a student felt it was “in sharp contrast to other professors in the political sciences department” of the University. If a professor seems to be pushing a political agenda on students, there comes a risk of losing respect or order in a classroom.

“The situation was handled well, I believe. (Contractor) publicly apologized and explained that it was out of humor,” said education junior Alexis Rodriguez.

“I always expect all my emails from professors to be nothing short of professional,” Vederko said. “There’s no room for jokes or gags in emails at the University setting.”

“I don’t think I’ve had a professor include anything funny in the emails they’ve sent the class,” Rodriguez said. “At least, not to that kind of level or in the context of something political. That topic is always controversial in conversation, so it’s not surprising if students were upset about the email.”

In this situation, no one was hurt, but it should be a reminder for both University professors and students to always remain professional in email exchanges because once a message is sent, there’s no going back.

Anything said in email is not always private, so it’s important for students and faculty to learn how and remain to use emails professionally. That means including a salutation to the recipient of one’s email, a signature and appropriate language and content.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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