Saturday, December 29, 2012

Oh hell no

I mentioned briefly that my summer class was not very good this summer. It was hell, especially because of one student. Going into details right now is just upsetting.

So, when I logged in to my professional networking profile and saw the request from Hell Student student to add me to Hell Student's network, I was in shock. I even checked my emails again, to make sure the names were correct. Oh, yes. Hell Student wants me to be a professional reference.

Deleted.

Go fuck yourself you horrible excuse for a human being. You are in the top five of worst students I have ever had in my teaching career.

17 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Since Hell Student probably lived up to his or her name, deleting the request may be justifiable. I'm not aware of a professor or instructor being legally obligated to give their name to a student as a reference.

      On the other hand, it's perfectly legitimate to decline such a request either verbally or in writing. I've had people turn me down when I asked them for references and the reasons I was given were usually plausible, such as not being sufficiently familiar with my work to make a fair and objective comment. That's better than agreeing to be a reference and then trashing that person's reputation, which happened to me once, costing me a chance at getting job that I really wanted.

      Delete
  2. I have had simalar students try to network with me on Linked In and on FB. No way in hell. Not even curiousity about how crazy and delusional they really are will let me open up my personal life to them!

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  3. What I like (and yes, I'm being sarcastic) is when students or former colleagues list me as a reference without my knowledge. My set response is - I'm sorry, I don't know this person well enough to provide the information you request.

    On occasion, I'll get a request for a reference from a student, like the one I received recently from a student who I caught cheating. Not only did I catch her cheating, she actually contested the grade she received (request for change of grade was denied). I kindly suggested that this student consider asking someone else, given that my most recent exchange with her was over this cheating incident. I guess students just assume you will provide a glowing recommendation... forget about actually earning it.

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    1. You are way too damn nice. If a cheater asked me for a reference, I would jolly well give one, and it would be FRANK.

      Delete
  4. Once upon a time, I had a terrible, horrible person passing herself off as a student ask me for a letter of recommendation after she'd caused me no small amount of trouble with my own department head.

    I declined.

    She sent right back to the department head, who told me that I should write the letter.

    I wrote the letter. It was not enthusiastic. I did what I could to be professional and polite, but even aside from what this student had done to me personally, she was a poor student and lacked even basic critical thinking skills. There was little about her that I could recommend.

    She went back to my department head, who called me into his office. I explained to him that I wrote the most positive letter I could. He told the student that this was the best she could expect and sent her on her way.

    It was one more bizarre, disheartening episode at a school where I'd care never to teach again.

    It is satisfying to let bad and/or mean students know that you are a person completely separate from your job, and that the person you are doesn't like them and isn't obligated to socialize with them.

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    1. Um, your department head ORDERED you to write a letter of recommendation, at the request of a crappy student? Jeez, and I thought I had it bad when I was an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor!

      Come to think of it, though, if that had happened to me, it wouldn't have taken long for me to start giggling like a proper mad scientist, my grin a fatuous thing, dreadful to behold. Anytime I'm asked to write a letter of recommendation that can't be good, I tell the student. If the student is still dumb enough to want it, I write a bad one. I always stick to the facts: truth is the antidote to accusations of libel, and invariably the facts themselves are damning.

      Delete
    2. Um, your department head ORDERED you to write a letter of recommendation, at the request of a crappy student? Jeez, and I thought I had it bad when I was an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor!

      Come to think of it, though, if that had happened to me, it wouldn't have taken long for me to start giggling like a proper mad scientist, my grin a fatuous thing, dreadful to behold. Anytime I'm asked to write a letter of recommendation that can't be good, I tell the student. If the student is still dumb enough to want it, I write a bad one. I always stick to the facts: truth is the antidote to accusations of libel, and invariably the facts themselves are damning.

      Delete
    3. I'm stuck on the idea that you were ordered to do this, too! WHAT? I wouldn't have even bothered trying to craft a well worded letter; I'd have just been blatantly honest about how I felt if it were something I were doing under duress.

      Delete
  5. Hooray for Maybelle!

    But perhaps Hell Student has already listed Maybelle as a reference on an application, thinking (as one of mine once did) that asking a professor to serve as a reference is just a formality. Wouldn't it be sweet to be contacted by a potential employer about Hell Student and to simply state, "I cannot recommend this student"?

    Why would we need to provide a reason in a situation like that?

    I once had Suckup Stu ask for a letter of reference three times after earning a C, failing the major critical thinking assignment, and basing his Weaving Presentation on contraband alpaca fur smuggled into the U.S. against federal and international laws we had gone over in detail. The first time Stu asked, I advised him to ask some other professor (Captain Subtext: ANY other professor) who knew him better than me, and in whose class Stu had earned an A or B.

    Stu's email reply dripped with Suckup: "That's okay, you're such a great professor, and I really respect you and think the department I'm applying to would take a letter from you very seriously." If only that were true, Stu, I'd have phoned them about you off the record. In fact, that department doesn't know me from Michele Bachmann.

    My second brushoff was a mite stronger: "Stu, departments weigh these letters carefully and will be looking for a multiple-term or intern-type relationship with a professor who knows you well and with whom you excelled. My letter would not serve you well."

    Said Stu: "I truely [sic] appreciate your excellent advice, but really would ask you humbly to write me a letter anyway."

    Said Proffie Galore: "If you really want a letter from me, be forewarned: it will say that you put more energy into brown-nosing than studying; that you knowingly brought contraband to class as the basis of your presentation despite applicable laws being part of the curriculum; and that your major essay for the class showed an alarming lack of critical thinking even in the topic chosen."

    Suckup Stu did not reply then or ever again. Imagine that.

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  6. I always state to any student who asks for a reference letter, who shouldn't be asking, that "I'd be writing a letter that probably won't be of assistance to you." So far, they've always politely ceased all requests for letters after that.

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  7. If I ever get a request for Hell Student, I will tell the truth: more interested in sport than study, cheats repeatedly on exams, takes 20 minute smoke breaks in the middle of classes, arrives late, belligerent, disrespectful to female authority, and generally very rude.

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  8. Totally agree with Proffie Galore that students equate asking for reference letters with just another box to check off the list of Stuff To Attempt before leaving campus to do whatever internship/job/grad program they aim to do next. They clearly don't put a whole lot of thought into this -- and even the good ones lack strategy.

    To wit: This week I had a better-than-average student ask me for a letter to add to hir MFA program applications. This is a degree that our graduates have successfully done in the past, but without an MFA myself (I'm into criticism rather than the creative side of our field), I explained that it would be in hir best interest to seek recommendations from those who have done the thing she aims to do and leave out the PhDs whose work doesn't approach the field in the same way.

    I still offered to look over hir other application materials, since zhe wants to apply to programs in my home country. This may have been a mistake.

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  9. I know! I have that happen occasionally. Asshole wants to link to MY network? Hell no!

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  10. I was in no position to say no to the department head, so I wrote the letter. It was a well-known uni and truly one of the worst places I've ever worked.

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  11. If it's a letter of *reference* rather than recommendation, well...

    I'm with "mad scientist" Froderick. First thing that occurred to me, too. (I wouldn't follow through, but a few moments of delicious imagination to be had.)

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  12. @CC and others - requests to "link" at LinkedIn or Xing or other such sites are often sent automatically, without the requester actually doing anything. Those sites figure out who knows or might know who and, depending on your settings, might send out link requests. That is why 90% of the link-up requests I get are not accompanied by any other communication - just the standardized "I'd like to add you to my professional network" wording.

    So it isn't necessarily the student's fault. If you have common connections, if the student mentioned you in some communication, if you are associated with the same group (your field at your university, for example), the machine might have done it.

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