Someone did it again this week! The most annoying thing a student can say to me. I’m in my office in the UC, my door is open and a student lightly knocks on the door and says, “Dr Skinner… Sorry to bother you.” Certainly, I did not jump up at them and tell them they had annoyed me, but I did say to them they were in no way bothering me. I want to make this plea; as a student, your knocking on my open door is NEVER a bother. I applaud you for trying to be polite and apologize for “bothering” me, but a student visitor is never a bother. I owe a major part of my success as a college student to the help that many faculty and staff at Southeast provided to me, and now is my chance to return the support I was provided. I would even go so far as to say that as an employee, I have an obligation to ensure you asking me for help or to answer a question is never a bother. Students are what make a University, and absent students there is no University, so I plead with you to NEVER think your need to speak with me is in any way a bother. I certainly cannot speak for all faculty and staff, but I can say that I know many faculty and staff members and I believe the most important trait of a great faculty/staff member is not their title, degree, or level of authority, but their willingness to engage students directly. To paraphrase a well-worn axiom, “A student does not care how much you know, until they know how much you care about them.”
So what should you do? How about lightly knocking and asking, “Dr. Skinner, do you have a second right now?" or "Dr. Skinner…. Can I ask you a quick question?” You never need apologize for wanting help or for asking to work together to find a solution.
I know that some will think I am a little overboard here and that many people use this opening line as a mere way to start a conversation. While this is true for some, I also know other students who really do worry that stopping by is disrupting the work of that faculty/staff member. I encourage any student to interpret an open door as an invitation. Please don’t be shy to ask a question or ask for help. Working with and in support of students is why most of us choose to work in higher education.