As a visiting prof with few future prospects in (or out of) academia, I’ve become at once bitter and reflective about my position. I do my job well, of course, but I’ve shed many of the trappings of a budding academic clawing her way to the top. I’m saying no to requests to do things I shouldn’t have to do, keeping to myself in the office, and mostly looking out for #1. No one else saw fit to fight for me, so to hell with them. I’m half tempted to blow this popsicle stand at the end of the semester and not even give my student evals.

All that aside, I’ve had a request from a student that has caused me a bit of conflict. Actually, I’m not conflicted, I’m just not sure how to express my answer in such a way that I don’t sound like a complete asshole.

I had this student in two classes (one this year, one last year), and this student was relatively good. Not the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but reasonably intelligent and hardworking. Never really stuck hir neck out, was usually in class, etc. This student e-mailed to ask for a letter of recommendation, and I really don’t think that I want to or should. For starters, I don’t have much great stuff to say. This student was good, but not great. I won’t be able to write a resounding letter of recommendation.

The most important part of this is the fact that I’m a visitor. Why am I being asked to write letters for students when I won’t even have a professional identity in 3 months’ time? I’ve read in some places that rec letters from visitors/adjuncts are not taken as seriously.

I am not sure whether I tell the student that my position would be a liability for her, or if I should simply say something about being really busy (also true). My institution likes to toot its own horn a lot, but the way they hire in a constant stream of visitors as they do is downright shameful. I think the students who pay north of $50K/year to go here deserve the truth. I just don’t know if that truth should come from me, and now.

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