Tuesday, November 04, 2014

college students are becoming humorless

I received an email from a certain Miss DB of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. She wrote:

Dear Mr. Kim,

My name is DB and I am a senior in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. I serve as a student ambassador with the Georgetown Discovery Initiative, which was started by President DeGioia in 2006. This initiative is not a solicitation; rather, the President is interested in creating a two-way dialogue between the university and its alumni and giving them an opportunity to share their Georgetown experience, perspectives and ideas, and to engage the alumni to help shape the future of Georgetown.

I would like to meet you in the next three weeks for a brief interview lasting no more than 45 minutes. This interview would serve as an opportunity for the university to find out more about your time at Georgetown, your perspectives, and your interests. I would also be more than happy to discuss what is going on at Georgetown today if you are interested.

My schedule is flexible. During the week I can meet you on Monday, Wednesday before 6 pm, Thursday after 4 pm, Friday, and weekends. I can meet you at your office or home, or wherever is most convenient. Please let me know if you'd be willing to participate.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and I hope we can set up a time to meet.


It was obvious that Miss B had no clue I was out of the country, so I wrote the following reply:


Thank you for your email! Not sure how you found me, but the information you used probably needs to be updated: I currently live in South Korea, and have been back here since the summer of 2013, so unless your family is filthy rich and you've got a hypersonic hydrofoil parked somewhere, I don't think we'll be doing a face-to-face interview anytime soon. And, no: no Skyping, thanks.

"No more than 45 minutes" is "brief" to you, eh? Ha ha! That's almost a full class period! To me, "brief" means ten minutes, tops. If you shoot me a set of questions to answer by email, I'll be happy to pound out some half-baked answers for you. A caveat, though: I'm afraid I'm not a shining example of Georgetowniness: you might be better off interviewing a more successful (and thus more interesting) subject.

You're SFS? I was SLL, back when SLL was still called SLL (School of Languages and Linguistics; if I'm not mistaken, it got swallowed up by the evil dragon that is the College of Arts and Sciences and is now called FLL, yes?). We Ling-langers used to give the stink-eye to the SFSers, who always seemed to think rather highly of themselves thanks to their heavier courseload and the Global Significance of Their Work. Sigh... Maybe it was just insecurity on our part. Anyway, that's all ancient history to me these days.
"...the President is interested in creating a two-way dialogue between the university and its alumni and giving them an opportunity to share their Georgetown experience, perspectives and ideas, and to engage the alumni to help shape the future of Georgetown."
I have no idea what any of that means, as it's utterly devoid of specifics. Sounds vaguely political, though. Is it?

But I'm curious as to what questions you might possibly want to ask an old fart like me. So fire away!


BSLA French (GU), MA Religion and Culture (Catholic University)
SLL '91, R&RE '02
(since we're waving our alphabet soups at each other)

I thought the above was kind of funny, but Miss B's reply was terse and humorless:

Dear Kevin,

I'm sorry if this information bothers you. Thank you for informing us that you're currently in South Korea. Since the program requires us to meet alumni in person, we are not able to meet as you noted. Thanks for your reply.


Note the switch from "Mr. Kim" to "Kevin." Note, too, that the only thing Miss B latched on to was the perception that I was somehow bothered by her email. She sensed none of my amusement, nor my teasing, nor my self-deprecation, nor my genuine interest in finding out more about her. As far as she was concerned, I was offering a lengthy, sarcastic "no."

The printed word is often hard to interpret in terms of tone, but it's also true that, for the interpreter to perceive something as negative, he or she has to be in a certain frame of mind. Miss B saw only one thing—my being bothered—and that one thing didn't even exist. Although I admit I do find it slightly creepy that a college senior managed to track me down, I also know that my email address is a matter of public record (it's on this blog, for goodness' sake), so things aren't as creepy as all that.

I wrote back equally tersely:


No bother at all. Good luck in your search for an interviewable subject.


And thus ended what could have been a fruitful exchange had Miss B been of thicker skin and in more of a sharing mood.



Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, she sounded like someone whose novella got called a short story!

Steer clear of humorless hominids like her.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Kevin Kim said...

Indeed. Little point in being nice to people if they're not going to be nice back. Mordu une fois, timide deux fois.

John from Daejeon said...

I'd bet that you were probably one out of thousands of requests the poor girl was sending feelers out to at the request of a lazy school president, and instead of a short yes or no answer back that she was expecting, she got a monstrously odd reply that probably not only befuddled her (she is a current student and may have no inkling of the ancient history concerning the school's name changes) but also detracted from what little free time she has in her usual day full of the pressures that seniors who attend Georgetown deal with (well, those and also dealing with Georgetown's president).

I once did something similar for my school's chancellor and was actually cursed out and hung up on several times back in the early 90's. I understand that personal time is very precious to most people, but the extreme rudeness at times was hard not to reciprocate (now I mostly save it for unwanted political calls).

As for the Dear Kevin, you did sign your missive without your last same. I am surprised that she wrote such a lengthy reply at all, so you got more in response than all the others who declined to be interviewed.

Personally, I really enjoyed your email response. However, if I were doing her job, your email would be printed out and subject to much ridicule and then speculation as to just what kind of person communicates using this type of claptrap when a simple yes or no were required.

It's just too bad that your excellent email was directly sent to the president and was wasted on this student.

Kevin Kim said...

No, she originally addressed me using my actual last name, which I changed to "Kim" in the blog post. (Still a surname.)

re: ridicule

That would simply have confirmed the humorlessness.

And yes, I agree the girl was only doing her master's bidding. In fact, I was originally going to include an Eichmann comment about "just following orders," but I decided against it.

Charles said...

I think John's point was that you signed your reply with your first name only (or did you not and simply change it to that for the blog?). This is often taken as a signal to drop last names in correspondence.

Kevin Kim said...


If that's John's point, then yes, I did sign my reply with just "Kevin."