Monday, January 10, 2011

Ethicists' Responsiveness to Student Emails: New Essay in draft

by Joshua Rust and Eric Schwitzgebel

Available here.

Do professional ethicists behave any morally better than do other professors? Do they show any greater consistency between their norms and their behavior? In response to a survey question, a large majority of professors (83% of ethicists, 83% of non-ethicist philosophers, and 85% of non-philosophers) expressed the view that “not consistently responding to student emails” is morally bad. A similarly large majority of professors (>80% of all groups) claimed to respond to at least 95% of student emails. We sent these professors, and others, three emails designed to look like queries from students: one concerning office hours, one about declaring a major, and a third about a future course of the professor’s drawn from posted schedules of classes. All three emails were tested against spam filters, and we had direct confirmation that almost all target email addresses were actively used. Professors responded to about 60% of the emails. Ethicists’ email response rates were within statistical chance of the other two groups’. Expressed normative view correlated with self-estimated rate of email responsiveness, especially among the ethicists. However, for all groups of professors, measured email responsiveness was virtually unrelated to either expressed normative view or self-estimated email responsiveness.

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