The Incalculable Cost of a Vowel

Did you send an e-mail to Dr. Ken Coates this month? you’d better read this:

On the game show “Wheel of Fortune” vowels were so critical to solving the puzzle that contestants had to purchase them. As soon as the letter “e” appeared on the board, the solution often became obvious.

The value of the letter “e” was demonstrated recently during AU’s third-party review. The reviewer, Dr. Ken Coates, sent out an e-mail invitation February 28 to every AU student—approximately 40,000 of them—soliciting comments about AU. This invitation offered students a unique opportunity to provide input into the future of AU.

I was one of the dozens of students who attended one of the teleconferences hosted by Dr. Coates. Then I followed up with a lengthy e-mail with my perspective and suggestions for AU’s way forward.

But my e-mail didn’t go to Dr. Coates.

A week after sending the e-mail, I happened to notice the e-mail address I used omitted the letter “e” in Coates. I re-read Dr. Coates’s original e-mail and discovered that the e-mail address provided in the body of that message was, which I had copied and pasted into the “To” line of my e-mail. Yet he had sent his e-mail message from Very similar, but one has an “e” in “Coates” and one does not.

I quickly re-sent my e-mail to the correct address: However, I wonder how many other students sent their e-mail to the address missing the vital “e”? AUSU replicated the e-less e-mail address by copying it directly from Dr. Coates’s message and broadcasting it to AU students on their website and through e-mail to all AU undergrad students. Even The Voice Magazine‘s website displayed the wrong e-mail address for a time.

I contacted Dr. Coates about the discrepancy in the e-mail address provided, and he confirmed that the one without the “e” is not his address. Any e-mails send to that address will not reach Dr. Coates.

Students who simply replied to the original e-mail have nothing to worry about, because replies would be directed to the originating (and correct) e-mail address. But students who, like me, composed a fresh e-mail and copied the address from the body of Dr. Coates’s message have sent their valuable insights to someone else entirely.

Somewhere out there is an annoyed Kenneth Coats whose inbox has been flooded with meaningless?to him?material. Or maybe It’s a long-forgotten e-mail address that is seldom checked. (Attempts to contact the other Kenneth Coats for this article have so far gone unanswered.)

In any case, if e-mails students sent aren’t going to the correct Kenneth Coates, they’re rendered worthless. If sent to the wrong e-mail address, the input students believed they were sending to Dr. Coates, at his invitation, has not gone to Dr. Coates at all and won’t be considered during the third-party review.

What is the value of a vowel? An “e” in an e-mail doesn’t cost anything. But, when It’s required, the cost of its absence?and the loss of valuable student input?is incalculable.

If you sent an e-mail to Dr. Ken Coates for the third-party review, check to make sure you used If you sent it to the address with the “Coats” spelling, you’ll need to re-send it to the correct address so that your comments reach Dr. Coates.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.