Letters to the Editor do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.
Dear Ms. Poteet,
I’m writing in reply to your August 11 open letter to me, in which you expressed so powerfully your thoughts about a memo I recently sent to CAS chairs and directors on the topic of communicating with students about their fall semester courses.
You emailed me your letter on August 5, the day two articles on my memo appeared in BU student publications. But unfortunately, I did not notice your email in my inbox, and so I read your letter for the first time only on August 11, the day it appeared in print. I am sorry for my oversight and for my consequent delay in responding to you.
In addition to serving as an associate dean in CAS, I am also an associate professor of English specializing in writing and rhetoric and a former director of the CAS Writing Program. As a scholar, author, editor, and teacher, I have dedicated myself to helping people write and communicate better.
The irony of the controversy over my memo, both within the BU community and across the Twittersphere, has thus not been lost on me. One measure of a document’s success, from a rhetorical perspective, is the degree to which readers receive and understand it as its author intended. By that standard, my memo clearly missed the mark for some of its readers, and I apologize for that.
I know that faculty in the College have invested tremendous creativity, energy, effort, and initiative into preparing to teach their students this fall. I can also aver that the College recognizes that students are best served when communications about their courses come, as I wrote, “not from the Dean’s office but from individual departments or programs or from individual faculty members.”
I drafted my memo to support CAS chairs and directors in thinking through how they, in conjunction with the faculty in their departments and programs, might approach the critically important task of crafting communications that would be direct, informative, accurate, and affirming. In retrospect, I see that I was led by my own professional identity as a specialist in writing and rhetoric into believing that I could offer more help in this regard than was wanted or needed.
Trying to be supportive, I became excessively prescriptive and offered guidance and suggestions that were interpreted as indications of an underlying distrust of my colleagues and our students. That is not how I feel, and I apologize for fostering that misimpression.
It pains me to know that colleagues whom I respect found my memo inappropriate. It pains me even more to know that it has damaged the trust that you and other students should have in your University. I am sorry for that most of all.
I thank you for helping me to understand the full effects of my miscue, and going forward, I resolve to do better by the faculty and students I serve. I wish you well in the coming semester, and I hope that this response may restore some of your trust in me and in your University.
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs and Policies
College of Arts & Sciences