A Correspondent with a Future in Management

by Kieran Healy on November 13, 2006

I just got an email from a stranger with a flair for delegation:

Hello ,
I am a BSc student with the [X University] external program and a course that I am taking requires the reading of the book ” Sources of Social Power volume 1 by Michael Mann ” . Now while surfing i came across your email and i would like to know if you could give me a brief overview about this book and probably help me if i get stuck while going through it. I have just started reading this book and its a topic that i find really intresting and will be awaiting your reply.

Maybe I could write his final paper for him as well.

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Baptiste Coulmont » Archives » Elle a de l’avenir
11.19.06 at 4:36 am



sean 11.13.06 at 10:36 pm

Mmm, undergrads. But still, I’m impressed by his having the cojones to cold-email a random professor from another university with an open-ended, preemptive, poorly-spelled and -punctuated beg. Instructors at his university obviously need to learn to instill more fear. I don’t suppose you know the prof, do you?


Walt 11.13.06 at 10:43 pm

They should just make him a CEO now.


talboito 11.13.06 at 10:44 pm

So you agreed to help the kid right?


Kelly 11.13.06 at 10:57 pm

No kidding, Sean. I have a hard time writing email to profs who’ve told me to email them, let along cold-writing!


vivian 11.13.06 at 10:58 pm

Why not assign YOUR undergrads the project of writing a summary aimed at this guy? Explaining things clearly for a motivated audience (okay maybe this is implausibly charitable) is a reasonable goal, and might even get you a couple of “cool” points with your kids. You don’t have to send them back to the emailer, though if “external program” means internet course or something, then he may not have access to office hours with a prof… Okay, rosy specs coming off now. I’ll go quietly.


Eszter 11.13.06 at 11:48 pm

Yikes. I have quite a collection of random emails, mostly from prospective grad students. I’ve considered starting a Web site for them, but then I realized someone else has probably already done that, plus the last thing I need is to spend more time on these. Congrats though, this one is unusual even compared to the special collection my colleague and I have amassed.


Barry Freed 11.14.06 at 12:13 am

Maybe I could write his final paper for him as well

If he shows up in comments here perhaps you should.


John Quiggin 11.14.06 at 12:39 am

I get this kind of thing all the time, often from high school students. And, I have to admit, I usually help them. Admittedly, few of them are as brazen as this guy.


William Sjostrom 11.14.06 at 1:28 am

I get these as well, frequently, and I have found colleagues who get them as well. Perhaps all these years in the academic racket have made me overly suspicious, but I suspect these are not brazen college students, but instead employees of term paper mills looking for suckers.


Colin Danby 11.14.06 at 1:36 am

I got somebody’s take-home microeconomics midterm a few years back, sent to me plus several others including a well-known textbook author.


Chris Bertram 11.14.06 at 1:51 am

Me too. Same email, so I guess it went to everyone at CT. And another one re a film studies/Hispanic studies assignment on _The Motorcycle Diaries_ !


Baptiste 11.14.06 at 1:57 am

One example received yesterday :

hello, i am doing a bussiness plan about a new concept of sex shop for a school workshop. Can you help me sending me your sources about the market of sex and/or some number information. You can send it to me in my e-mail


ingrid 11.14.06 at 3:32 am

This one beats all the ones that I ever received!


Ben 11.14.06 at 4:39 am

I wonder how many people he sent that too. And whether I should feel disappointed/insulted not to be asked!


Ray 11.14.06 at 4:41 am

You should reply, ccing his professor, suggesting that he read the book instead.


Thom Brooks 11.14.06 at 6:37 am

How long before we can leave earth for a new colony elsewhere, free from undergrads like this…?


aaron 11.14.06 at 7:36 am

Or you could fly out and press the shift key on his computer for him.


kid bitzer 11.14.06 at 7:46 am

on the bright side, I’m glad Jonah Goldberg is finally getting a BSc.


hermenauta 11.14.06 at 7:50 am

C´mon, maybe this is only a very ingeniously designed real-life experiment on the sources of social power, after all…


sean 11.14.06 at 8:49 am

My advisor actually gets so many prospective grad student emails, often from overseas, that he has a key bound in his mailer to automatically insert a template reply.

Vivian — your idea is definitely the best so far.


Dan Drezner 11.14.06 at 9:10 am

Like John Q., I get a regular stream of e-mails like this — but they’re usually asking me to help them out with stuff I wrote. This is definitely a new and altogether more brazen level of cadging.


Peter 11.14.06 at 9:44 am

If you do reply, just make up stuff. It isn’t like the clown is going to bother cracking the book himself to “fact check” your review of Winnie the Pooh.


Martin James 11.14.06 at 10:55 am

Well, I am interested in what others think about Mann’s work.

His book on genocide/ethnic cleansing is very interesting in its categorization.


Martin James 11.14.06 at 11:20 am

The really sad thing is that if the request came from a real power type like Hillary Clinton or George Bush wouldn’t most people respond?

Status is status.


reuben 11.14.06 at 2:38 pm

This thread seems interesting, but I don’t have time to read the whole thing. Could someone sum it up for me?


etat 11.14.06 at 7:04 pm

When I was an undergrad looking for a Master’s program, and writing to profesors whose books I’d read, asking them to comment on my topics of interest, I got some very dismissive replies – along with several non-replies. So this kid looks a bit like poetic justice: he’s obnoxious enough to provoke a reaction.

But that doesn’t mean I’d do his work for him. For that bit of cheek, I might just send him something thoroughly obscure/impenetrable and pass it off as entry-level reading, setting him a task that might yield interesting results for his current tutors.


bryan 11.15.06 at 10:01 am

>>Maybe I could write his final paper for him as >>well

>If he shows up in comments here perhaps you >should.

Here I am!

Ha Ha, My Evil plan worked perfectly….

(I kid, I kid…)


Caspian 11.16.06 at 10:46 am

I share my name with a lecturer in English at Leeds Uni… our hotmail addresses are very easily confused so I often get students pleading for last minute essay extensions and so forth.

If I’m in a good mood I’ll politely point them in the right direction, but sometimes it’s nice to let the poor dears dangle for a while…

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