Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Rant in the Key of Eff U - Grad School Recommendations Edition

I'm doing letters of recommendation for grad schools. It takes me about an hour to write a good letter using the materials the student has sent. I'm happy with the letter and enthusiastically recommend the student, who is a fine person and will do well in the chosen career path.

But the forms. Curse a bunch, and then curse some more. Stupid forms!

One insists that I give my country's phone code. Seriously? The address that I've filled in is in the middle of the US and you need my phone code? How about you use some minimal coding knowledge and have the form set so that when I choose "United States" from the country list it automatically knows that the phone code is 001. (Yes, I had to look it up. I don't call the US from outside the country much and I certainly didn't need to devote even a single cell to remembering that number. Except now I will probably remember it through a haze of dementia so that on my death bed I'll croak out something about 001 and whoever is cleaning the floor at the time won't know what it's about or care, but it will be my final sound.)

Some of the forms want me to distinguish between the top 1 or 2% and the top 5%. Really? I teach a good hundred students each semester in a variety of different classes, and you want me to decide who's number 2 vs number 3?

I don't think you actually need the number of questions that you put on those forms. Some of them have ten questions ranging from communication and writing to maturity to creativity to whatever. How do you distinguish between writing and communication? Have you ever had a really excellent student who could write but couldn't communicate? Or vice versa? They aren't quite the same, but they're pretty darned closely related. Most of the choices are like that, too. They may not ask quite the same thing, but they're close enough that you're not going to get a student who does one really well and can't do the other at all.

One form had at the very bottom a choice box for how likely the student was to complete the program. I'd say it depends on funding and disasters; given okay funding and few disasters, this student will be great. Given a bad disaster, the student will die tomorrow. And you think I can answer that question in a meaningful way? (I picked the best one because I think the student is superb. But I still can't predict disasters.)

And finally, the forms where I have to upload the letter, in either pdf or doc format, depending on which it wants (and no, they don't all want the same thing). The screen says that when it uploads properly, you'll see a button that says something like "check the upload" so that you can see what you've uploaded. But it doesn't actually say that. So you start all over, and funny enough, it thinks you've already uploaded the letter.

I think everyone who makes up these forms or decides that they're department will use these forms should be forced to fill out a bunch of fake recommendations just to make sure that what you've SAID will show up actually shows up.

This student is applying to a number of schools. I'm halfway done with the forms, and more than halfway to high bloodpressure. (At least this student isn't applying to different sorts of programs that require different stuff IN the letter like one a year or two ago.)

And one of the universities that was supposed to have sent me information about how to submit a letter of recommendation hasn't.

Yes, recommendations have always taken a long time, but this is stupid.

Okay, back to work.


Well, one more thing. I decided to check my eff bee page. I did. And there, at the top, two of my "friends" have somehow clicked like or whatever on a big chain store. One of these people is all on sometimes about how radical and stuff she is, but she likes big box capitalism. That makes good sense.

Let's be honest, you can't click on eff bee that you love big box store and in the next moment assert that you totally support local OWS stuff. It makes no sense. That big box store IS Wall Street. Those profits are going to Wall Street, and they're what they are because the store imports cheap crap from overseas factories that don't allow unionization and that have poor pay and work conditions.

I feel like unfriending some people because they clicked that they like a big box store. How snotty is that? (Pretty snotty.)


  1. Anonymous6:17 AM

    Oh, I dunno. Big box stores aren't all bad. I know there's a lot of talk about Walmart destroying small town American, but before Walmart came to the small rural land from whence my DH hails, you had to drive literally two hours to buy non-religious books. Sure, there were more small stores, but they employed fewer people and the goods were limited and much more expensive. Walmart, and then Amazon, opened up whole new worlds for folks. All of a sudden they could have and afford the stuff that they associated with a middle-class lifestyle.

    You can argue that they don't need stuff and that's not in their best interest to allow them easy access to so much cheap stuff ... but that's kind of a paternalistic argument as they're much happier with Walmart than they were without. Who is better to say what is in their best interest than they are?

    Yes, there are problems with Walmart and labor laws, standards, etc. but when you live in the middle of nowhere (where, incidentally, the small stores flagrantly violate labor laws all the time), and don't make much money, Walmart is mostly upside.

  2. I'm having the same problems regarding letters of recommendation. Grrrrr....

  3. Anonymous1:04 PM

    I don't trust effbee. It is constantly telling me that friends of great sensibility Like one lousy business/band/cultural practice or another, expressions that I have reason to doubt. I wouldn't be surprised if effbee has tricked them into it.

    BTW, if you ever see me Liking any business etc (over in the sidebar, vs. Liking an individual's comment), please let me know. I have a strict policy of never Liking anything, so you'll know it's bogus.

  4. True story: excellent student asks me to write a letter of recommendation for grad school; I say sure; she send details about the EIGHT grad schools to which she's applying. I can submit the same letter for all eight, but that means eight different online forms with their own passwords and processes and different questions. No more! Eight is enough!