Archive for February 26th, 2013

I see letters of recommendation as a necessary evil, meaning that I recognize them as an important part of my job but often feel unsure when I am writing them about whether I am actually helping my students or not. Upon obtaining my job I was not given the code, so I wouldn’t mind abolishing them. As long as they are around (and students can help me out a bit), though, I guess I will need to keep semi-arbitrarily ranking students in terms of their writing skills, leadership ability, maturity, and any number of other things.

Recently, though, I came across a recommendation form that strained the limits of my ability for judgment. A student of mine was applying for a position at a nonprofit organization with a Christian orientation. Apparently, when applying for a job at a Christian organization no topic is off limits. Among other things, the evaluation form asked me about the student’s reputation on campus, personal appearance, sense of humor, drinking habits, spiritual focus, servitude to Christ, and whether he or she is a “serving-type person” and exemplifies a Christian life. What the hell is a “serving-type person”?

Some of these questions allowed me to respond with “I don’t know,” but others did not. In my written comments I tried to elucidate the candidate’s academic strengths and weaknesses but I’m not sure how my non-answers will be seen by the hiring committee. Maybe they only want students who talk about their servitude to Christ in every class. Since this student was thankfully not that type of person, I guess that I had no choice but to leave the judgment to God.

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