Writes of Passage…..or Not

Writing a credible recommendation letter for a student is a time-consuming endeavor, one that can easily suck up the better part of an afternoon that could otherwise be devoted to watching videos of NCAA Division I football coaches trying not to laugh when using the words “student-athlete” in a sentence.   That’s why many professors undoubtedly reacted with a bit of wistful envy when the story broke recently that two University of Michigan faculty members had declined, for political reasons, to write recommendations for students who desired to study in Israel.  “Politics, schmolotics, those two jokers just wanted to reclaim a precious part of their workday!”

The ensuing controversy over the professors’ actions has brought to light a host of reports on strategies that instructors have employed to lighten their letter-writing burden.  Here are three of the more provocative ones:

—  Grayson Orskhp (pronounced “Orskhp”), Associate Professor of Management at the University of Arkansas, refuses to write recommendations for anyone applying to an Ivy League graduate school.  As a high school senior, Orskhp had applied to all 8 Ivy League institutions, and was turned down by every one.  (Harvard’s rejection letter began, “We’re astounded that you actually thought we might accept you.”

Orskhp now carries a grudge. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to send any of my top students there.  Those elitist snoots at ‘Ah-vahd’ and the other status pits can rot….in….hell, because that’s exactly what I’m doing here in Fayetteville.   Have you ever tried to get a decent bagel or slice of pizza in this town?  I’m not even sure they know the difference between the two.”

—  At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Critical Studies Professor Lynette Haven-Poultice will only write recommendations for direct descendants of postmodernist icon Michel Foucault.  When informed by a University Life reporter that Foucault has no direct descendants, Haven-Poultice responded, “that is not my problem.  Do not try to construct it as my problem….or as Foucault’s problem, for that matter.  It was his decision to reproduce or not, not the state’s.  You disgust me.  Why don’t you move to Fayetteville and marry your cousin?  And there is nothing wrong with doing that, by the way.  In-house intersectionality should not be suppressed.”

—  Blake Crull, a Biology professor at the University of Tulsa, will only write recommendation letters in French.  “It’s the world’s most beautiful language, is it not?  Compare the phrases “Je t’aime, mon amour” and “pigs in a blanket.”  Which one is more inspired, more transcendent?  When riding a Metro train in Paris stuffed with sweating natives at rush hour, which phrase is more likely to help your senses escape the under-deodorized, overly perfumed locked box in which you are trapped?  I rest my case.  Or should I say, ‘Je repose mon cas’?”

Oui! Un millier de fois, oui!