An e-mail

«Dear Student,

«Have we met in person? I believe we have corresponded, and I am sure you are eminently well qualified for X. However, I have never served as a reference for someone I did not know directly and had not actually worked with. Someone who gives you a reference should be able to say something more than simply repeat what is in your application; as a referee I would like to be able to say, at the very least, that I have spoken with you in person about your project and your plans.

«If you do not know any faculty in our unit, I think you should meet with someone who is actually on campus (I am abroad on a research trip) and have them write your reference, if you need it done this month. Also, I would strongly suggest you offer to do your own printing and scanning. If faculty did this kind of work for all the letters we write, we would never get to the main part of our jobs. Hence my policy of asking students to print/scan the documents for their references and portfolios.

«I am having trouble loading ULINK from this distance but if you go into the schedule of classes for June, you will be able to see what faculty members are teaching in the current summer session. They will be on campus and have office hours, and you can talk to them directly. If you would like to wait until later in the summer, I will be on campus and we can discuss your project then.

«With best wishes,




Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “An e-mail

  1. You actually sent this? Wow, you are very responsible and dedicated.

  2. Z

    Well, I was that thorough and nice because I was actually hopping mad … and we are a small department which treats majors as though they were at an élite liberal arts college … and I have not actually corresponded with this person, but I have seen correspondence by other faculty to them, and it was almost obsequious in tone, so I knew I had better hit soft. Finally, and I guess this really is responsibility and dedication, I really do think people should be clued in.

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