Here’s an ethical issue (actually, a pair of them) which I’m sure all of us have faced, or will. Sometimes students come to instructors seeking letters of recommendation – for graduate school, for jobs, for postdocs, or what have you. And sometimes these students are such that we could not, without dishonesty, write a fully positive and utterly enthusiastic letter. But there seems to be an expectation on the part of a lot of people – not only students who request these letters, but also those decision-makers who will read them – that every such letter should be completely positive, so that a letter that contains any negative comment at all will simply doom the person whom it ‘recommends.’
In light of this, there are three obvious strategies. (I’m sure there are more, but these seem to be the most obvious, and probably the most common.)
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