Claiming Your Right to Say No

Posted in Governance and administration on January 6th, 2017 by steve

“When approached for a letter in the bleak midwinter of recommendation-writing season, many of us wish for responsible ways to say, like Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, ‘I prefer not to’. Yet in weak or guilty moments, we may accede to a student’s plea and then spend hours racking our brains for something to say …” (more)

[Amy Weldon, Vitae, 5 JAnaury]

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Do You Want to be Described as Hard Working?

Posted in Life on December 2nd, 2016 by steve

UK“I visited Oxford this week to talk to the Women in Physics group, mainly made up of students and postdocs (not all of whom were women). Tea and excellent scones were provided to stimulate good discussion. I was duly grilled as the voice of experience and asked to provide advice about career progression and setbacks …” (more)

[Athene Donald’s Blog, 1 December]

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Saying What You Mean to Say

Posted in Life on March 10th, 2013 by steve

“Some years ago I came across a psychology paper which suggested that letters of reference are subtly (or even not-so-subtly) gendered. I had never thought about it before, but it made me think much harder about the adjectives and roles I wrote about for both men and women when I write my own reference …” (more)

[Athene Donald’s Blog, 10 March]

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Academic reference inflation has set in, and everyone is simply wonderful

Posted in Governance and administration on February 3rd, 2013 by steve

“Time for academia to follow the rest of the world of work and seek references only at the final stage – and in the short form, says Jonathan Wolff …” (more)

[Guardian, 28 January]


Written Off

Posted in Governance and administration, Life on April 14th, 2011 by steve

“A colleague in another department was recently talking about what they liked most about a sabbatical, other than the obvious things. In this case, a favorite sabbatical benefit was: not having to write letters of recommendation …” (more)

[FemaleScienceProfessor, 14 April]

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The decreasing value of an academic reference

Posted in Legal issues on August 5th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“A New York woman who says she cannot find a job is suing the college where she obtained a bachelor’s degree, because the college’s Office of Career Advancement did not provide her with the leads and career advice it had promised. Perhaps someone somewhere along the line didn’t write her a good enough reference. If you don’t write a good enough reference, you might get sued: that’s one of the lessons of Spring v Guardian Royal Insurance …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 5 August]


Checking up

Posted in Governance and administration on August 4th, 2009 by steve

Ireland“Every so often someone asks me to write a reference for them, and almost invariably I agree to do it. And then, sometimes, I find myself struggling to think what I could possibly write. Very often the person asking me might be someone I knew (taught, perhaps) many years ago. Sometimes it can even be someone I don’t really know at all (though when that happens, I usually decline, as politely as possible). But if I have agreed to do it, I am faced with the need to be true to the person who has asked me while also being honest to the person who will read it …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 4 August]

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What were job references like in the old days?

Posted in Legal issues on July 21st, 2009 by steve

UK“Anyone who has been involved in academic job interviews and selection – especially for early career posts – knows how important the references are. The candidates in question probably have very few publications that you can read; you need a supportive but honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses from someone who knows them. Anyone who has recently been involved will also know how difficult it is to get a supportive but honest assessment …” (more)

[Mary Beard, A don’s life, 20 July]