To Sir, with [No] Love — Scott Galloway’s Professorial Smack-down

| April 10, 2013

It’s the professorial missive that’s going viral. Scott Galloway, a Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, recently delivered a Sedaris-esque smack-down by way of Paperchase, and now everyone’s chiming — and clamoring — in.

While Deadspin is calling the professor’s response an example of “Internet immortality,” others are heralding Galloway as a heroic whip-cracker with a justifiably low threshold for bilious butthurt. And who could blame him? In an age where people’s foibles are merely foil to attack their prosecutors, many educators have had their fill.

But while some agree with Galloway, others are calling his response, “heavy-handed.” We were alerted to this story by several educators who wanted to write their own response to Galloway’s now-infamous — and celebrated — email . (The original emails are printed below)

Michael McKinney, an English teacher at Arabia Mountain High School in Dekalb County, Georgia, wrote to Glittersnipe saying that “truer words were never spoken” in reference to Galloway’s retort.

“I experience the breach of common courtesy every day,” McKinney said.

“He [Galloway] makes several valid points, not the least of which is that so many students today lack some sort of moral fiber and respect for others. I have kids who constantly talk over me — and each other— then, when I call them on it they respond, “Oh, sorry,” as though “sorry” is some sort of panacea that cures all rudeness. Naturally, three minutes later, they’re talking again. Perhaps that’s a trite example, but they really are lacking basic manners. Many of them are incredibly disrespectful and are quick to tell you what they will and will not do in a classroom. I attribute it to their upbringing because if I had spoken to any my teachers (or any adult) when I was their age, I’d have had my butt beaten.”

Theater director and professor at Butler University, William Fisher, told Glittersnipe that he couldn’t “help thinking about this youngun’s unmitigated consumerist attitude and deeply held sense of privilege and entitlement.” “Frankly,” Fisher said, “I thought the professor’s comments were almost too generous.”

Meredith Josey, Ph.D. of Western Washington University told us that while she understood Galloway’s policy, she felt that extenuating circumstances could have kept the student from arriving on time, adding the NYU professor “didn’t have to be an asshole.” She concluded:

 “I used to be a lot like Galloway, but have quickly learned that, working at a public university, I am a civil servant and students are my customers. I am also an adjunct professor, so student evaluations mean a lot to me. I don’t let students run all over me, but I am definitely fair and reasonable.”

Teacher Kiyoshi Najita, at Parker School Kamuela, Hawaii, who also considers himself a “demanding teacher” felt that “Galloway’s points are valid.” “However,” Najita told Glittersnipe:

“I feel his response is heavy handed. I might speak this way with a student with whom I had developed some consistent communication, but to strike this tone in an introductory set of emails, the easiest forum to go too far rhetorically, seems to contravene some of Galloway’s own advice about manners and ‘getting the easy stuff right.'”

Padraig Downey, Irish historian and the Head of Arts Department at a leading International American Academy in the Middle East, did not hold back and shared his own current horror story:

“I feel as educators we kowtow to students far too much. In my emails, I like to get to the point and call a spade a spade or a lazy ass a lazy ass. Now, I don’t go as far as Galloway as my admin kowtow to parents who provide the big bucks; herein lies the problem. The rich oftentimes gain entry to the best schools. What did Beckett say about Trinity College, Dublin while he worked there? ‘Dublin University contains the cream of Ireland — rich and thick!’

“Only today, I had an issue with a student who has huge potential but cowers from doing the work and as a result hovers around mediocrity. Students who have no ambition to achieve their potential in a subject they like and are talented at drives me insane! Not on my watch! Having coaxed this student to reach the top, she is willing to throw it away on the final hurdle. What does the mother do? Berate me to the school head. Says I don’t communicate enough! So, the sixty-four emails I have sent in the past six months were not enough?! Additionally, I stayed behind after class to assist the daughter no less than thirty-fve times! Free of charge! My conclusion? I’m an idiot! Now there’s a meeting tomorrow. Galloway gallantry is to be called for. Mother and daughter are going to get it. We all should take a stand. Enough is enough. If this the cream, it’s curdled and sour! I want the dregs!”


Listed Below Are the Emails from Student X to Professor Galloway

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback

Prof. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.


MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business

Professor Galloway’s Response

—— Forwarded Message ——-
From: “xxxx”
To: “xxxx”
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback


Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.


You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway


At the time of publication, Glittersnipe’s request for comments from Professor Galloway have not been answered.

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