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关于推荐信和评价(译文及原文) 精选

已有 11396 次阅读 2008-10-20 03:29 |系统分类:海外观察

(For new reader and those who request 好友请求, please read my 公告栏 first)
On letters of  recommendation and evaluation
One of the duties of a scholar or professor is to write recommendation letter or provide evaluation for your student or colleague. In the US, these letters are often requested by institutions considering hiring the person under question for a position or a recognition award. Promises of confidentiality are customary given to insure impartial and frank opinions will be provided by the evaluator writing the letter. Since the government passed the Freedom of Information act in 1966 which allows a person certain access to his/her own personnel records, specific forms were design for person to waive such right so that a person will not ever see these letter of recommendation and evaluation even after s/he were hired or admitted. Students routinely sign such waiver forms in order to get professors to write letters of recommendation for them when applying for admission or jobs. As members of admission committee, we will disregard any recommendations not accompanied by such waiver forms.
In China, the practice seems to be exactly the opposite. An applicant for a position or an award are to contact, solicit, and collect such letters of recommendations from various writers and submit them as part of the application. Even if the institution directly requests such evaluations, no promises of confidentiality are ever given. I cannot help but wonder what purpose can such non-confidential letters of recommendation ever serve. Who would ever write anything critical if s/he knows that the applicant will be able to read it? Can the institution ever gleam anything useful from such letters? Because of this, I have consistently refused to write such letters. Instead I write a letter to the institution explaining the reasons for my refusal as contrary to existing academic practice for the rest of the world. So far, I have not heard an explanation back as to why Chinese Institutions keep following this procedure of non-confidential letters of recommendation. There must be some logic to this which escapes me.
By the way, in the West awards/prizes are nominated by your peers but never applied for by yourself which appears to be the practice in China. For one who was brought up the western way, the Chinese practice again seems to me as unnatural and full of opportunities for conflict of interest and humiliation. Chinese are obsessed with the Nobel prize. But has anyone ever APPLIED for a Nobel prize?
(Note added 10/23/08: I don't want to imply by this article that the issue of confidentiality is absolute. There are instances where it is not necessary or desirable, e.g., you are asked to render a  clearly favorable opinion. Confidentiality is a principle not an ironclad rule. Also there is a subtle difference" between a recommendation letter and an evaluation letter))
(More note added 12/13/08. More than one Chinese colleague has enlightened me to the fact that "recommendation letter" serves purpose in China different from the evaluative purpose in the west. Thus confidentiality is not necessary nor expected. Another example of my own naviety)
学co者n或教授的职nor责之一e 就是为你的学生或同fi事撰写推荐信或提供评价。在美国,当机构考虑雇用某个人或评奖的时候,就会要求提供这类信件。按惯例,对方会向你保ntial证这类评价是it保密的,这样y 你才能给出坦率的评价。1966年政府通过《信息自由法案》,允许个人在某些特定情况下接触自己的档案,自那时起,一些特定表格就被设计出来,要求人们放弃这些权利,这样一来,一个人即使在被雇用或者获奖以后,也永远不会看到这些推荐信和评价。学生申请入学或者申请职位的时候,为了得到教授的推荐信,一般都要例行签署这种弃权表。作为录用委员会的成员,我们将拒绝任何不带此类弃权表格的推荐信。

然而在中国,情况似乎正好相反。作为申请材料的一部分,职位或奖项的申请人需要自己联系推荐人,请别人帮助写推荐信。即便是机构直接请人评价的时候,也从不给出任何保密的承诺。我忍不住感到奇怪,这种非保密性的推荐信能起到什么作用?如果一个人知道申请人会读到他或者她的推荐信,他们还会写什么尖锐的意见呢?机构能从这类推荐信中得到什么有用的东西吗?因为这一点,我一向拒绝写这类信件。相反,我会写一封信,解释我拒绝的原因——因为这与世界其它地方的现行学术实践相悖。到目前为止,我尚未收到任何回复,跟我解释一下为什么中国的研究机构继续遵循着这一非保密性推荐信的程序。这种现象的背后一定存在着某种我不懂的逻辑。

顺便提一下,在西方,奖励或者奖金是由你的同行提名的,从不会由你自己申请,而后者在中国似乎已成惯例。作为一个接受西式教育长大的人,中国的做法再次让我觉得很奇怪,这种做法孕育着利益冲突和被羞辱的可能。中国人一直有着深深的诺贝尔奖情节,试问,有人曾经申请过诺贝尔奖吗?(科学网 梅进译 何姣校)
(More note added 12/13/08. More than one Chinese colleague has enlightened me to the fact that "recommendation letter" serves purpose in China different from the evaluative purpose in the west. Thus confidentiality is not necessary nor expected. Another example of my own naviety)



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