Reply All

As the noted humorist Robert Benchley (1889 – 1945) once observed, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who get really upset when a colleague hits Reply All in response to a message from a university administrator to the faculty as a whole, and those who take the colleague’s mistake in stride

Okay, maybe it wasn’t Robert Benchley who observed this.  But you get the point. 

In any event, a typical episode of RRA (Reckless Reply All) goes something like this:


September 3, 2019, 8:45 am

FROM:  Fleming Helken, Dean of Arts & Sciences

TO:  Arts & Sciences Faculty

SUBJECT:  Dry-Erase Markers

Just a reminder that the deadline for submitting purchase orders for dry-erase markers for the Spring 2020 semester is today, September 3rd.  Please send your request electronically using Form DEM217.  You must submit a separate request for each color you would like to receive.  In addition to sending your request to the Purchasing Office, please copy the Provost and Campus Police in your email.  Thank you, and don’t forget that National Don’t-Sniff-Your-Marker Day is September 25th.  A rally will be held on the campus quadrangle at 11:00 am featuring a performance by TCU’s own Clear Nostril Jug Band.

Have a nice day, and best wishes for a productive Fall semester. 


September 3, 9:02 am

FROM: Randall Yenz-Thompson, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages

TO:  Fleming Helken; Arts & Sciences Faculty

SUBJECT:  Re: Dry-Erase Markers

Is there any chance you could extend the marker deadline?  Last night our Bichon Frise, Stefan, developed a nasty abscess on his left hip.  It’s inflamed and quite painful, which you quickly discover if you press on it with your thumb.  I’m with him now at the animal hospital, and will probably be here until late in the evening.  The veterinarian says that she will need to lance the abscess to get all the pus out, and I want to stay by Stefan’s side until he wakes up in the recovery room.  As you can imagine, I’m in no shape, psychologically, to submit a dry-erase-marker purchase order today.  I promise to do it the first thing tomorrow morning.  Thanks so much, and please pray for Stefan.  


In recognition of how annoying incidents like this can be, Texas Christian University has become the first school in the country to establish a “Progessive Discipline System” for RRA offenders. 

Here’s how it works:

1st offense:  A note is added to the faculty member’s annual performance review by the chair. 

2nd offense:  The Human Resources Department is notified and the offender is required to participate in a Saturday morning training session on Email Etiquette offered by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

3rd offense:  The faculty member must attend a Scared Straight session sponsored by Campus Police.  In the session, a rehabilitated RRA offender engages in some “attitude adjustment” with the professor in question: “You think this is a joke, punk?  Don’t look away from me!  What makes you think that anybody at this school gives a good goddamn about your lame-ass bee-shawn free-zay oozing pus from a bump on his butt?  Is that thing even a real dog, or just a big ol’ puff ball of cotton you use to shine your sports car? I told you, ‘DON’T LOOK AWAY FROM ME!’  And stop crying, or I’ll smack you upside your head like Aaron Judge hitting a fastball with a two-by-four!”

4th offense:  The faculty member will not be considered for a merit raise or cost-of-living salary increase for the coming academic year.

5th offense:  The offender’s email privileges at TCU will be suspended for 3 months. 

6th offense:  Public shaming on the TCU campus quad.  The faculty member is branded with a scarlet RRA on his or her forehead. 

7th offense:  Revocation of tenure and banishment to a local for-profit college specializing in cosmetology and long-distance trucking. 

Although these measures may seem harsh to some, a TCU spokesperson indicates that there is broad support for them among the faculty.  Indeed, the spokesperson asserts that “one professor even told me, ‘I can forgive a sexual innuendo or two directed at a good-looking undergraduate a lot more readily than I can condone the lack of attention to detail that leads to clicking on Reply All when you shouldn’t’.”

Will other schools follow TCU’s approach?  University Life will keep you posted.