From: "Sandra Rogers, International Affairs VP"
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 6:03:33 PM
Subject: [*] Language Skills Survey
The Brigham Young University student body is unique in many ways, particularly in our experience with other cultures and languages, as well as our appreciation of multi-cultural diversity. In the past, information about our students’ language skills has been useful in attracting employment recruiters, securing jobs for students and communicating positive information about the university.
We are requesting your assistance with a short 5-7 minute survey that will help us understand and quantify the experiences of BYU students. We NEED all students to fill out the survey, regardless of your current multi-cultural or language experiences.
Your identification will be deleted prior to data analysis and reporting, so please feel free to give us your honest and candid opinions. If you begin the survey and run out of time, please click the stop button. When you are ready to restart the survey, simply reclick on the link below and you will be returned to where you left off. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Eric Jenson at email@example.com
International Affairs Vice President
Click here to begin the survey
Mac users paste the following url in your browser http://axt.byu.edu/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=LANGSKILL&id=G333
(This message was sent to multiple recipients from Institutional Assessment and Analysis as authorized by Danny Olsen, Director. No patron will send bulk, unsolicited electronic messages unless expressly authorized)
No big deal, right? Here's the email I was inclined to send as a response, but didn't (for reasons articulated within the email).
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Blaine D. Hone
To: Blaine USA
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:32:36 AM
Subject: Re: [*] Language Skills Survey
Thanks for the survey opportunity. I am interested in benefiting BYU by sharing whatever personal information I can. As I am certain you are concerned with effective communication (as evidenced by some of the content of the survey), I thought you might want to know how this message is making some students feel (. . .at least me; and I don't perceive myself as being radically different from "normal"). [I'm sure some of the blog readers might beg to differ here, of course]
My feedback is simply this: I take issue with the big bold phrase "We NEED all students to fill out the survey (etc.). . ." Reading it, I feel as though I'm somehow required to complete the survey, or that you might seek to coerce cooperation should I opt not to complete it. I, consequently, read into your message a sense of uncomfortable pressure and manipulation--neither of which are appreciated in a student's already "stressful enough" life. Thanks for your consideration.
. . . Here I've read through the above paragraph, and can't help but feel like I'm (quite ironically and hypocritically) coming off as a jerk. Part of me says the best approach would be to kindly fill out the survey (or not, if I don't care to), and not pay any further concern to the manner in which my cooperation was requested. The fact that I'm actually sending you this note is evidence that I'm acting in interest of 'the other' side of me--the one that tells me that if I'm truly interested in BYU's being the best it can be, I'll give constructive feedback to BYU faculty and staff when I'm in a position to do so.
One final thought: I fully acknowledge that how I FEEL about your request is entirely my own responsibility. I recently read somewhere (I believe it was in "Getting to Yes" by Fisher and Ury) that a person will find he is much happier, and that all his negotiations in life will go much smoother if he will but choose to take communications at their best possible meaning, as opposed to their worst. To respond at all to your email would constitute my disregarding this advice. I choose better.
Blaine D. Hone
I ended the email abruptly because it was there that I came to the realization that out of interest in my own growth, I would be better served by NOT sending the email.
Out of interest in who the unknowing non-recepient of my response would have been, I googled 'Sandra Rogers BYU'. I found this photo:
I did a search on BYU's website and found that Sandra Rogers has been working for BYU sine 1980 (if I recall what I read correctly). She was Dean of the Nursing School at BYU until 2008, when she was made vice president of the international department--the office from which she wrote me this week. From her bio, she seems like she's probably a very well-meaning person. She has served humanitarian aid missions (or maybe it was just one), and she's been involved in humanitarian aid efforts in a variety of different countries. She has spoken on faith and hope and the likes at conferences. I can only assume there's a variety of other great works she has done (and continues to do) that make her an absolutely 'salt of the earth' kind of gal.
My point: I'm fairly confident that no threat or affront in any form was meant by her email. What a silly mistake it would have been on my part to assume there was one, and react accordingly. . . .not because I think Sandra Rogers would have been permanently scarred or in some other way hurt by my comment (on the contrary, everything I know about her--which is admittadly very little--tells me she's probably the type of person who would GENUINELY appreciate knowing a way in which she might improve the effects of her communications). No, the mistake would have been for me to act on an assumption that a certain communication was intended a certain way. I think I make this mistake too often, and I hope to "choose better" more often.
For what it's worth. . . I appreciate the lesson I learned tonight from Sandra Rogers.