Monday, February 27, 2012

"Please adhere to the following guidelines" (This is a joke, right?)

REBEL GIRL came home from an idyllic weekend in San Diego (Opera! Hotel pool! Potato tacos and tamales at El Indio! Balboa Park! The Spreckels Pipe Organ!) to find this rather abrupt request in her mail box. Maybe you got one too.
Lisa Alvarez,

5500 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, Ca 92618
lalvarez@ivc.edu

YOUR RECOMMENDATION LETTER IS IMPORTANT. PLEASE ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES. Do not identify the student by RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, NATIONAL ORGIN [sic], AGE, SEX, FAMILIA [sic] STATUS, DISABILITY STATUS, VETERAN STATUS or GENETIC information. Do not provide the STUDENT'S NAME, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, STUDENT ID NUMBER, BIRTH DATE or any other information that may identify student
[long hyperlink here to cut and paste]
Your temporary password is [a series of capital letters]
Rebel Girl wishes there had been more of an explanation for the abrupt change in policy—Why? Tell us why!—and certainly the English teacher in her pines for a proper salutation and perhaps unimportant details like deadlines, punctuation, spelling (e.g., orgin), etc. She does approve of the zesty inclusion of Espanol or Spanglish—"familia" status! Ay yi yi!—but then again, she would. She remains perplexed by categories of knowledge she would never possess about her students: "genetic information," "Social Security number," for example, or those she would never mention: "color," "religion" etc.

Having begun drafting her first letter though she realizes that most faculty are faced with a special challenge: how to avoid the gender revealing pronouns: he or she.

Rebel Girl wants to help.

One can rely upon "the student" to get though most of the letter, though with some tiresome repetition.

When one begins to reach for a pronoun, however, be careful. Remember, gender neutral. And you cannot use the student's name either! It's not as easy as one might think.

The choice of "they," while popular, violates the shift in number statute of the MLA English usage code and repeat violations may result in diminishing the power of the recommendation.

Rebel Girl suggests the more fashionable, cutting edge s/he. Notice the forward slash, very popular these days. Admire how this new hybrid pronoun retains the spirit of the she and the quiet solitary power of the he without sacrificing the gender integrity of either. People who prefer the parenthetical over the slash can opt for (s)he.

There is the weary-making he or she or she or he.

But what to do about him and her?

No idea. You're on your own. Retreat, if you must, to that reliable noun student. Vary it with its slightly British cousin scholar.

Now write your letter.

Good luck.

16 comments:

  1. So far, my letter has become a series of declarative statements: The student is this, the student is that, in my class the student...It's a strange exercise that creates a kind of robotic transcript of observations. I worry that I will forgot just who I am writing about.

    When ARE the letters due?

    Did anyone notice that the electronic form which thankfully identifies the student, also (oddly) includes the student's personal telephone number?

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  2. How about the old school universal HE?

    Remember when HE was the default pronoun of choice whether the noun it referenced was male or female?

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  3. I think they're obviously trying to address some kind of problem but yes, the request could have been improved by some information regarding the change in policy, deadlines, and yes, proofreading, etc.

    I think this is another example demonstrating an absence of real communication. What's going on? Something, but no one is saying anything. We're just supposed to write checks and letters and not ask any questions. But it's hard to even know what questions to ask ....

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  4. Opera in San Diego?

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  5. Well, this is problematic but at least faculty recommendations are required which is a good thing. I was worried they were going to do away with them entirely. I wonder about how many are requited though. I hope it's more than one. Anyway we can find out? Who's on the committee?

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  6. Of course there's opera in San Diego. But there's much better Mexican food than El Indio. Let me know next time you're in town, Reb, and I'll give you a long list of better places to eat.

    When we do letters of recommendation, we're given a student ID number. I use it like a proper noun: "I'm impressed by 12345's perserverance and blah, blah, blah."

    --100 miles down the road

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  7. 100 miles,

    Yes, I know there must be better Mexican food in San Diego - El Indio is a sentimental favorite though. But I will take you up on your offer next time. We love to eat.

    The opera was grand - west coast premiere of Moby Dick.

    I like your solution - but note that we are not allowed that option (the student's ID number). Alas.

    ~ Rebel Girl

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  8. How can one write a letter of recommendation without being personal? Isn't the writer supposed to actually know the student? Seems to me like PC-ness unhinged, where students become androgenous: it's PAT!

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  9. Just use SLOs - and add "The student" plus an adjective or adverb or two.

    example: This student can successfully describe the major elements of the dominant political, social,
    and economic structures; the religious ethos; and the intellectual and cultural characteristics of the societies examined in the scope of this course.

    Cut and paste.

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  10. Nobody's trying to be "PC" here. The scholarship "system" has been operated unprofessionally for years, and, at some point, the district lawyers got to the scholarship people, urging this verbiage. Instead of explaining this circumstance to us, the clueless scholarship people just pass on this idiotic language--without advice or recommendations. As usual at IVC, nobody in charge tells anybody else what's going on. Things are just "done."

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  11. A student told me today that the faculty letters are OPTIONAL, not required.

    Lord knows what they will use to evaluate the applications without them.

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  12. The problems with this program have been well known and predate the current director. WHY so little has been done through the years is a mystery. AND may jeopardize the whole shebang if anybody looks closely to just how it has been managed.

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  13. Several of my students were stymied by the new online system. They claimed they could not get past the area where one had to check one's gender. The system wouldn't accept their "answer" and then wouldn't allow them to move forward. Another student said the same thing happend to her when she tried to check her major. The response didn't register and then she couldn't move forward. These are pretty bright kids too, more tech savvy then me.

    Meanwhile others have confirmed that lettrs of recommendation are "optional."

    Can you imagine hiring someone just based on a cover letter and transcript?

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  14. I fail to understand why we haven't received a simple announcement alerting us to the delay in this year's application process and the changes to the process, asking for our participation and understanding. They want us to donate and write letters (which I do) but then they treat us like this. It is frustrating and disrespectful - and unprofessional.

    Remember the year when they didn't require ANY faculty or other recommendations at all? And they didn't even tell us they had discontinued them? They just waited until we noticed and then made excuses? That was 3 or 4 years ago.

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  15. My students also report problems with the online process.

    To date, I have received only ONE request for a letter, unlike the several I usually get.

    Something is wrong.


    I also don't know why we weren't informed about all the changes. it take fifteen minuets to write a letter that explains the situation. They spend way more time than that asking us to write checks.

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  16. I think these issues and more have jeopardized the tax deductible status of the program.

    ReplyDelete

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