I don't have any tried and true rhetorical strategies for you--just some
suggestions. Having just finished a ton of recommendation letters myself,
I see two ways to approach this. Either you can just tell this person that
you'd rather not write a letter for him, which is what you rightly seem
inclined to do. (After all these letters take a lot of time and thought.)
If he presses for a reason, you would be doing him a favor to tell him
exactly why you won't--or at least some of the reasons why. But please,
don't help him into the already over-populated and problematic field of law
or foist him on our Canadian friends.
The alternative is to agree to write a letter--not of recommendation--but
just a letter--with a guarantee that he will waive his rights to see it
(that's usually on the law school forms anyway). If he still wants you to
do that, then give an accurate assessment of his performance in class. (As
an administrator, I've read a few of those letters and have appreciated the
honest comments.) This will at least give you a say about his admission to
these programs. Here you would just have to make sure that the addresses
he gives you are legit--and that they are not his friends to whom he's
given new titles.
Good luck. Please let us know how you handle this.
>Hiya, folks . . . me again. I've got a sticky situation, which will be
>familiar to people who were at Inkshed 12, which is why I'm writing here
>for help. Remember my descriptions of the vitriolic homophobe who
>basically went after (rhetorically, not physically) one of the gay
>students in my class last spring?
>Well, the homophobe has just written to me, asking for -- get this -- a
>_letter of recommendation_ for [a] law school . . . and (if that doesn't
>push your panic button) for [b] a Canadian Studies internship program in
>Ottawa this summer. How do I tactfully tell him I won't do this? How
>much explanation do I have to give? (His homophobia really isn't the
>only reason I don't want to write this letter; I think he was a divisive
>presence in class, he didn't contribute much to his group, and I think he
>may have plagiarized his final paper . . . )
>I have no clue why he's asking _me_ for a letter, except that maybe his
>other professors didn't get to know him very well. And I'm worried about
>what I say when I refuse to write the letter, because I'm worried about
>opening yet another can of worms with this guy.
>Any rhetorical savvy you could pass my way would be _extremely_
>appreciated. And thanks.
>University of Michigan-Dearborn
>4901 Evergreen Rd.
>Dearborn, MI 48128
>email: [log in to unmask]