The Ethics Column Is Back!

  • Our purpose is to raise dilemmas of concern to students, faculty and administration and invite response.
  • Our goal is to offer encouragement and support for members of the community to enhance our civic life here at the University.

By way of review, ethics is a broad concept. Some definitions include:

  • A system of moral principles
  • A study of principles that ought to govern human behavior
  • The moral fitness of a decision or course of action
  • Rules of conduct of a particular culture

We invite you to join the conversation and respond to these ethical dilemmas:


Letters of Recommendation

The Student Dilemma

I am a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences starting the process of applying to graduate school for a master’s degree. Since the end of the spring semester, I have felt completely unsure of who I should ask for a letter of recommendation. I am a good student, but I have always been quiet in class. In the past four years I have taken a few classes with the same professors, but I feel awkward approaching them when so much time has passed, and I am unsure that they will even remember my qualities as a student when they grade hundreds of students each year. I have one professor that I did an independent study for, and she offered to write me a letter, but I need more than one. Is there a general, unspoken guideline or set of principles that govern this process? In other words, what are the do’s and don’ts of asking for a letter of recommendation?

-Alex From The College of Arts & Sciences

The Professor Dilemma

As an adjunct Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, I have been approached numerous times by a variety of students for letters of recommendation. While some requests I gladly accept, I feel plagued by others. Frankly, after months of teaching students and evaluating their in-class performance, writing level, and engagement with the material, it becomes clear that some students just simply are not at the level I believe makes them exceptional candidates for a graduate program. However, I feel bad saying “no” to a student when approached, and usually write a letter even though I do not genuinely want to. The answer to this dilemma never becomes clear. What is the right thing to do here?

-Adjunct Professor, College of Arts & Sciences



We invite students, faculty, administrators, and staff to weigh in and give us your perspective on these dilemmas. All emails are handled with confidentiality, and you will always remain anonymous in our column.

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