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Why Not Every Student (or Prof) Deserves a Letter of Recommendation

Jackie Jones is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Multimedia Journalism at Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism. In her essay for the Morgan Global Journalism Review, Jones tackles the subject of letters of recommendation. She writes, “My decision about whether to write a recommendation is also guided by the four principles of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics: Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, Be Accountable and Transparent.” In addition, Jones discusses why not all students who ask should be given letters of recommendation.

I am very particular about writing letters of recommendation. I must know the student and his/her performance well and I will not write letters for students whose performance and reputations are wanting.  I am polite, but I don’t hold back and will explain why I am refusing to submit a recommendation.

I once warned a student even before he asked not to approach me because I could not in good conscience say anything positive on his behalf.

This doesn’t happen only with journalism students. Get together with a bunch of professors from a wide variety of disciplines and the war stories flow like whisky

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