In “A Defense of Recommendation Letters,” an essay published by Inside Higher Ed on Sept. 13, author Daniel F. Chambliss, professor of sociology emeritus, reflected on his 40 years of experience as professor and department chair in taking this supportive position.
Chambliss dismissed many of the criticisms commonly expressed about these letters. He posited that, “When read carefully, usually in clusters of three, letters can describe a candidate’s consistent strengths and weaknesses, their teaching style and effectiveness, their resilience and flexibility, and their suitability as colleagues.” He exhorted his colleagues not to “discount or discard reference letters. Let’s apply our skills to searches as well as scholarship.”
Recipient of the American Sociological Society’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, Chambliss is recognized for his simple but effective approaches to undergraduate education. He has spoken and consulted at scores of colleges and universities across the country, especially on the role of personal relationships in college success.