This is a bag-o-worms I know. The tag has been applied to nearly 500 questions, but the usage is extremely inconsistent. It doesn't seem to have any consistency at all and could be applied (as it is) to about half the questions here.

It needs a better description for a start, but is there anything else the community can do to regularize the usage? And, given the state of it, what should the description say?

  • Well done! That was quite the effort to get to all of them.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 16:18
  • @BryanKrause, it took a while, but sometimes just lessened boredom when the site was slow. I've been doing a lot of other tag maintenance along the way. Now, if I could just catch a little rep...
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 16:23
  • 1
    Ah yes, always chasing the tail of the one in first place :)
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


Thanks for bringing this up. I suspect a few of our tags have similar issues, including . But let's start with this one for now. My two cents....

So first, we already have an tag. This is for questions related to providing teaching, advising, or research mentorship to undergraduate students, and excludes questions that could also be relevant for post-graduate students.

We do not have a corresponding tag. However, we do have a tag, which in practice covers most of the academic services that faculty provide to grad students.

So, I am not sure why we need a tag at all. Most questions "about students" (e.g., their characteristics and preferences) should use the , , or tags. Questions from students should use the appropriate tag (e.g., or or or whatever the issue is). If there are on-topic questions from students about issues not covered by our existing tags, we should create those tags rather than falling back to a generic "students" tag.

Sadly, the only way to implement this would be to remove the tag from all 449 questions (which will bump each of the old questions back to the front page). We could do a couple per day for the next few months, but this is a major decision; we should make sure we want to do this before we commit to it.

  • There are a couple of "easy" things. One is to stay vigilant about new questions and retag them as needed. The other is to retag questions that are worth bringing to the top. And improved wiki might help also. The easiest cases to judge are the closed questions, but bringing them to the top doesn't serve much purpose. FWIW, I may have just earned the tag badge for this, though the system either lost it or is slow in awarding it.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 23:39
  • That may be a good first step -- retagging the useful questions that are worth bringing to the top. There may even be a few "useless" questions we can just delete. Then we can see where we are and decide how to proceed.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 0:00
  • 2
    I'm currently looking at a few old (the oldest) questions, especially those that are still open, with few answers and none accepted. If they seem worthy of promotion (to me, at least), I may edit and change/remove the tag. So far just one. The numbers are daunting.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 14:14
  • Would you think it reasonable if I flag a few questions I deem "useless"? I'd mark them for mod attention and suggest removal. Those closed as off topic and with no answers seem likely candidates. I have one in mind now. And, I notice you've retagged a few in the past few hours.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 13:41
  • @Buffy - yupp, please do.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 4:00
  • I've flagged all of them without answers that are closed. One, however, wasn't off topic but lacked clarity and was never edited.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 13:26
  • I flagged one for which mine was the only answer. I'm actually trying to set some bounds here. If you reject any of these flags I'll have some guidance. But I'm getting cautious, also. Maybe we want a chat room for this "discussion".
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 15:24
  • I'd be inclined to leave this one; it got some discussion, a well-received answer, and even the decision to close it is debatable. So maybe this is the lower bound on questions we want to keep.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 21:12
  • I think both decisions are fine. Thanks.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 21:17
  • For some of the questions I'd like to "fix" and therefore promote have user Buffy (cough) as the only current answer. Is this ok? Some guidance would be appreciated. It's not like I need the rep, of course (cough, cough).
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 21:29
  • Haha, there are very few questions indeed that do not have an answer from user Buffy! So go ahead, my only suggestion is to do them in batches of <= 5 so we don't flood the home page.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 21:44
  • Oh: I would also suggest that if any of the questions you fix use the professor tag incorrectly, maybe remove that as well; we can kill 2 birds with one stone. For example, if a question is about "what to do after punching my professor", this shouldn't be tagged "professor" since the essential question would be the same if the assault victim were a non-professor instructor.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 21:47
  • I'm keeping it to one or two at a time and normally when things are either boring or there is a lot of competition. And I'm playing with professor as I notice it. I did a couple of them recently. I see you've been busy also with older questions. I've been focusing on newer ones.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 21:52
  • Has there been a change in the UI? I just noticed a question newly tagged students and it shows with a yellow/cream background. When I remove the tag it reverts to the standard background.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 17:21
  • 1
    I looked at a bunch of them, but very few were about teaching, actually. Cheating, funding, lots of other things. I think we probably just need to keep whittling. I'm focusing on those that are open with few answers and none accepted. I think you are attacking from the other end. None of my decisions have seemed hard, though I've had to come up with a few alternatives. Mostly just dropping it has worked ok. The problem will disappear if a few months.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 15:19

It would have been better if we'd left this well enough alone. As @cag51 said in their answer, "Sadly, the only way to implement this would be to remove the tag from all 449 questions (which will bump each of the old questions back to the front page)."

So it's somewhat surprising that this was in fact the course that's been taken, for an issue that apparently only two people cared enough to speak about previously. Sure enough, the front page of SE Academia has been churned on a daily basis since then, with lots of half-decade old questions returning to the front page, and lots of clearly-confused posters writing comments and answers to questions that had already been settled years ago.

At a minimum, I recommend that very old tag-editing like this include a comment on the changed questions about why the edit in question has been made at the present time.

And I recommend that we not go through this again for other tags.

  • There is no intention to do anything similar with other "messy" tags such as professorship, which was improved a bit in other ways. A comment, IMO, would be worthless and even more distracting. I think that @cag51's comment was intended to refer to a one time bulk change rather than a piecemeal one. Continued...
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 15:33
  • The process of making students obsolete will be over in another month. My current intention, unless we have another conversation about it is to leave the already closed questions as is and only deal with the still open ones. Many of them have no accepted answer. But quite a lot of the remaining questions are already closed - at least a third, though I haven't counted. More...
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 15:36
  • Another point to consider is that there is value in resurrecting old questions that might still be relevant. There is a bot that does this, in fact. Additionally, in removing students, I have also tried to add more appropriate (specific) tags when I can think of one or more, which increases the usefulness of the tagging system. More...
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 15:38
  • Moreover, a fair number of the affected questions have been answered anew with some rep earned and badges as well. And, FWIW, I try to do this in relatively "calm" periods on the site and only a few (2-3) at a time, which is less disruptive than If it were 20 or so. The last couple of weeks were pretty calm, I think, though it picked up today.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 15:41
  • 2
    @DanielRCollins - In future, I would urge you to raise your objections when the original meta question is asked (which in this case was over two months ago). At this point, a consensus has already been reached and the work is largely finished. I, for one, have little patience for those who do not contribute to the discussion nor the labor but are keen to criticize the result.
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 17:04
  • @cag51: I object to the claim that a "consensus" was reached here and in other cases. The number of votes and interactions is far too small to claim any such thing. Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 19:55
  • @DanielR.Collins You're an established user participating to a few communities, and you should know by now that those are the typical number of votes and interactions of most Metas across the network, excluding a few huge ones like SO or Math. If users don't want to vote or write a counter-proposal at the right time, when a discussion is started, we cannot force them, but we won't look favourably to complaints written long afterwards. Note that usually, before implementing a proposal, we wait at least a couple of weeks, and there's plenty of time to comment . Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 20:22
  • Let me further add that having a few questions bumped every day for a limited period may not be so bad, because it allows us to do a bit of clean up (e.g. I deleted a few obsolete comments here and there) and it allows new users to discover old questions, and possibly add their contribution. After all, we're not a technical site, and many questions are not really "settled": if a user wants to contribute with a new perspective, even when there's already an accepted answer, they should feel welcome to do so. Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 20:29
  • 2
    To give you an example from another site, I posted this answer on Physics SE, seven years (!) after the question was posted, and the OP accepted it. And the same happened on Cross-validated SE, where I answered to a question that was four years old. So, having people posting new answers to old questions is not that bad. Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 20:32
  • @MassimoOrtolano: Knowingly giving high-quality answers to old questions: At no time have I critiqued that, it's a strawman. What the present case entails is, e.g., a rash of answers to several my questions which I've had to parse, all of which currently stand at zero or negative points. So: As far as I can tell, an increase in useless noise to the forum, with no value added. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 0:55
  • What I specifically do not see on other SE sites in recent memory is a routinely strident claim to "consensus" from two or three people active in the meta; moderators independently deleting popular questions for "consensus" reasons of their own construction which then get re-opened by the actual community; deleting tags basic to the subject; letting the entire front page be churned for months on end; being endlessly argumentative; claiming to post answers when they don't; etc., etc. The behavior on SE Academia has very much become a regressive outlier. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 0:56
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins Your questions are not merely your own, as they are hopefully useful to visitors and not just the person asking them. New answers to an old question of yours might not have value to you personally now, but that doesn't mean they won't have value to the next visitor (for whom their question is current/active in their minds). You can use the "questions" tab to avoid the churn if you prefer (I do wish it was easier to set this as a default by preference, but that's an issue for the SE software not academia mods).
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:54
  • @BryanKrause: Seems pretty ridiculous to argue that a rash of all zero- and negative-scored answers adds value to the site. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 15:25
  • I think I was about as cautious as I could be by stating "might" and "doesn't mean they won't" have value. No ridiculous declarations that the new answers are excellent or better than the old. I count 4 answers to your bumped questions, one with positive score (+1), two with -1 (and no other votes), one with zero votes. Yeah, perhaps not the best collection of responses to those answers, but not sure I'd call it a "rash". Mostly just seems like they haven't had much exposure, despite the bumping, as there's just a total of 3 votes across 4 answers.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 16:53
  • 2
    Actually, I've quite enjoyed looking at some of these old Qs and have upvoted a few. 🤷 Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 21:08

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