Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If You Want Your Student Papers Mailed To You...

One of my many duties here at Fuller is to return student assignments back to them after they have been graded. While on one hand, this provides me with an opportunity to touch base with many people, including many who have become friends, over the course the years I have spent here, there are a few recurring frustrations. Now that the Fall Quarter has started, for example, I have to tell many students (who did work in the just-completed Summer Quarter) that their professors and teaching assistants are not required to turn grades in to the Registrar until the second week of a new quarter, and that there is therefore a good reason why I do not yet have their papers here ready to be picked up!

Of course, many students prefer to have their papers delivered to them, rather than have to come up here to pick them up from me personally. There are two ways of accomplishing this:
  1. If you have a mailbox here at the seminary, please make sure that your name and box number are prominently displayed on the assignment (top right corner is my preference, but there's no rule on this). Having the class and professor prominently displayed (perhaps in the top left corner?) also helps. Unfortunately, even if this is done, there may be other issues. For example, I cannot simply place an assignment in a box if the grade or comments are prominently displayed on the front, due to Federal privacy regulations. However, if a large manila envelope (assignments tend not to fit in the type of envelopes you usually get most of your mail in!) is provided, that can eliminate this problem, and I can therefore get the paper in your student box more quickly.
  2. Provide a self-addressed stamped envelope to be mailed to your home address. This is my preferred method for students who do not live on (or have other reason to regularly visit) the campus.
However, you might be surprised at how little otherwise-intelligent, seminary-educated students think about what's required to make sure that there is sufficient postage on such projects. For example, I just finished processing a stack of papers being returned from one class yesterday, and this included quite a few self-addressed stamped envelopes. A quick eyeball-estimate of the postage on these led me to doubt whether or not they all had sufficient postage, so I took them down and talked to the postal clerk rather than simply dumping them in the box. I'd say about half of the envelopes I was given were fine, but several were not given sufficient postage. Of these, a couple were only a few cents off the mark, so I was able to deal with them using a supply of pocket change set aside for this purpose (partially donated by generous professors who want to make sure that students get proper feedback) to make up the difference and get those envelopes mailed off.

However, in this particular stack, there were two envelopes (one still needing 47 cents, and the other needing an additional seventy cents) that I could not mail using the postage (and change) I had available. So these will be sitting in my office for at least a little while longer.

If you would like to avoid this fate, I have a few suggestions:
  • Realize that student assignments do cost more to mail than your average letter. In fact, if you provide only a #10 envelope, I may not even be able to fit your assignment in the envelope, let alone pay for mailing it with only the standard 41 cents of postage.
  • Take your assignment, along with the envelope you intend to provide to mail it in, to the post office before submitting it to your professor. The postal clerk will tell you how much postage it will require, and give the whole thing back to you. You will then know exactly how much it will cost to mail those materials.
  • However, some students forget that they may have turned in one or two other papers that have not yet been returned to them, and that all of these assignments may be sent to me at the same time. Therefore, you may want to buy postage to cover the additional weight created by these older assignments, just in case.
I certainly have no desire to have unretrieved papers take up space in my office, nor to go through the trouble of shredding them if they haven't been picked up within a couple of quarters of the class finishing (also required by those Federal privacy rules). Unfortunately, I am often left with little alternative. As the cliché goes, "help me to help you."

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