Campus communication could be better

Katheryn Bermann

UWO students say communication between students and professors is good overall, but there is definitely room for improvement. “I have always felt that my professors value my time and questions, so they generally get back to me in a good amount of time,” Lizzie Duffey, president of UWO’s Communication Club, said. In general, students seem to feel that professors want them to succeed. Communication is prompt, encouraged and usually quite concise. Plus, it’s not just through email. “Not all of us have the same communication styles and [the professors] recognize that, so they will often tell us information in class, via email, and also on D2L,” Duffey said. Given how valued communication skills are today, it’s even more important that professors set a good example. Good communication skills seem to be disappearing, which is what makes them so valuable. In fact, a quick search on with the beginning keyword “importance” yields “importance of communication skills” as the top result. So what makes communication such an important issue? Last year posted a story entitled “Why Communication Is Today’s Most Important Skill” that may help answer that question. “We often treat communication as if it were a discrete act, a matter of performance or lack thereof,” the article says. “A crucial, but often overlooked, function of leadership is creating a culture in which effective communication can flourish.” However, according to students, not every professor is doing as well as they could be in creating such an environment. Jimmy Willing, a second-year graduate student, shared some frustrations he had in trying to get certain professors to work with him. “Some [professors] are really bad at answering e-mails,” he said, confusion evident in his response. And with good reason too: there seems to be an unspoken rule that when professors email students, they expect a reply within 24 hours, so when they themselves don’t reply, it leads to frustration, and sometimes even professional consequences. Willing recounted one time in which he continually had problems encouraging a professor to reply to his emails. He even put “Please Reply!” in the subject line, but no response came. In addition, he had trouble communicating with another professor about a poster for a conference. The communication was so bad that he worried about whether the poster would be done in time. “[That professor] really dropped the ball,” Willing said. Other students seem to recognize how rare good communication is, especially given Willing’s experiences. “I have been lucky to have very articulate and strong communicators as professors over the past four years,” Duffey said. “Some professors have told me that they dedicate at least an hour each day to emails.” When communication difficulties do occur, what should be done? Willing doesn’t think either party is necessarily right or wrong when communication breaks down. “Most faculty do care [about communicating with students],” Willing said. “The trouble is, faculty and students tend to have different communication styles. Finding a middle ground between those generational differences tends to be the main challenge. Students appear to recognize this, saying they will go speak to professors in person if they’re confused. Even in class, they seem to recognize that asking questions is a good thing. “If I’m ever unsure about something, I will be sure to speak up and ask a question because I realize that I am probably not the only one in the room that is also confused about something,” Duffey observed. This kind of initiative is going to be valued later, according to an article on entitled “Why Taking Initiative at Work Is Key to Your Success.” “It’s saying to your boss, ‘Would you mind if I helped out on this project if I did so in my spare time?,’” the article said. If all professors worked to instill this kind of work ethic in their students, one can only imagine the kind of young employees that would enter the workforce. It would certainly bring UWO that much closer to fulfilling the Chancellor’s goal of preparing students “to become successful leaders in an increasingly diverse and global society.”