When Letters of Recommendation Written by Freeway Flyers Are Discounted

OrtizBy Jenny Ortiz

As a Freeway Flyer, the end of semester always comes with a mountain of paperwork and the hope that my contract is renewed for another term. Given that I bounce around from one campus to the other, I  have to make sure my final papers and items are in order in case I don’t teach in that particular college the following semester.

In the midst of this chaotic paper shuffling, I tend to get a student or two who need a letter of recommendation. I remember how intimidating asking a professor for a letter of recommendation was, so I usually say yes (as long as I can write a strong letter of recommendation, of course).

However, it would appear that the letter I write for a student doesn’t hold as much sway as a letter written by a full-time faculty member.

Case in point: In my Business Writing class, I had a student who excelled in his writing abilities, and who wanted to join the Writing Center staff. I was a writing tutor at the institution, and had taught him how to better his writing skills, so he thought it would be helpful to seek a letter of recommendation from me when he applied for the job.

Letters of recommendation aren’t things I write on the fly (Freeway humor!); I took my time and showcased the student’s talents. I also explained my qualifications in order to show why my opinion on the matter could be trusted. It was a great letter, if I do say so myself. However, a few days after I sent it to the people in charge of the Writing Center (my former bosses), the student was to solicit a recommendation from a full-time writing professor.

At first I thought the problem was me, but I’m well known and liked in the Writing Center. What’s more, I was seen as a hard worker, as well as honest. What was the problem? Is it  that I’m a Freeway Flyer, who lacks a central and permanent campus address? Perhaps. However, I believe a Freeway Flyer is the best source for an honest opinion about a student. After a semester of teaching six classes and getting to know more than 100 students on three different campuses, I’ve come to understand and know what a good student is. A full-time faculty member may have a desk and mug at a permanent campus address, but does that make her/his opinion more expert than mine?

So, how do we change this perspective? It’s a well known that at most institutions, the faculty students interact with the most are adjuncts and a high percentage are Freeway Flyers. There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason my students bond with me is because I work twice as hard to create that bond. I’m not on campus as much as a full-time faculty member, so the little time I am on campus, I use to the fullest. In addition, I’m usually one of first faculty members the students meet in their academic careers. A student can’t take 20th century African American Literature without taking a section of the English 1100 class I teach.

Then we have the issue that Freeways Flyers often don’t have permanent campus addresses. Should this reality of Freeway Flyer life scuttle our opinions and torpedo our letters of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a big deal, and every time a student asks me for one I’m honored. Writing letters of recommendation is one of perks of being a professor, I think. As a Freeway Flyer, I believe I’ve amassed enough professional credibility to have my letters of recommendation taken seriously. Frankly, I believe that a letter of recommendation from me, or any Freeway Flyer, should be viewed with as much respect and seriousness as one written by a full- time faculty member.

The reality is that Freeway Flyers need to work to make our opinions about the progress and achievements of our students taken as seriously as the opinions of  full-time faculty. So how are we going to do it?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 23 year old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter:  twitter.com/jnylynn.

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1 Comment
  1. Lance Eaton says

    Hi Jenny,

    Great topic; I think it’s a challenging issue. Undervalued seems to be synonymous with part-time faculty in many instances. How do we fight back? It’s a complicated situation for sure. Fighting back in that situation would be a letter in the school newspaper or even organizing a “support your part time faculty” rally at the school; but in ruffling the feathers, you come right back to your concern in the first sentence, “the hope that my contract is renewed for another term…”

    And though I wholeheartedly agree with you, I also wonder if there are situations where it makes sense that a FT faculty should be favored over the PT faculty at a particular school? I’m not sure, but I also don’t wanna rule it out.

    just my 2 cents!

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