I'm a Masters student in computer science. My current advisor is completely un-professional. He doesn't only write bad letters of recommendations for his students in order to keep them working for him, he even wrote bad letters of recommendations for students who did not ask him for these letters. I think this is egregious. I don't really know why. It might be psychiatric issues. Now, he is the only one in my school doing research. I don't know how to deal with it. Any suggestions would be really appreciated.

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    I don't know what kind of advice you expect? The best course of action if you want to do research appears to be changing to a different school. – Roland Mar 13 '19 at 10:27
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    This is very confusing. How can a professor write a recommendation letter which was not requested? How do they know where the student is applying to? – Dmitry Savostyanov Mar 13 '19 at 12:52
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    Sounds like you have to ask the professors who you ask for reference letters to treat your application and request for reference strictly confidential (including other faculty in the school). Apart from that, time to say goodbye to that school. Really, writing nasty references unbidden is pretty much at the very bottom of behavioural patterns, that's not just unprofessional, it's basically a form of academic swatting. – Captain Emacs Mar 13 '19 at 18:52
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    Don’t walk. Run. – JeffE Mar 13 '19 at 19:46
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    How does OP know what's in the letters of recommendation? They are not generally public. They may also be correct about the candidates, even if they are unflattering. – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 13 '19 at 21:24

Run away! The most important thing to success in your graduate education is your desire to succeed and your advisors desire for you to succeed. I've had friends and family with advisors who were immoral or emotionally unstable, and they are much happier now that they switched institutions/advisers or left the field entirely.


I think the answer largely depends on your particular circumstances. You mention bad recommendation letters. Okay, this is awful, but apart from this issue it seems you don't have any other complaints. Thus your course of actions depends on whether (1) you need recommendation letters while you are doing your masters and (2) these letters have to be from your supervisor.

If changing your supervisor and/or school is not an option, think about these questions. In a sense, your original question begs the trivial answer: if your supervisor writes bad and unwanted letters, you have to get these letters elsewhere and somewhat quietly.


In computer science you can build a reputation without your advisor. Get on github and start contributing to open source projects related to your interests. Go to conferences and network.

People probably know this guy is not honest and discount his letters (assuming what you say is true).

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    You can't get a degree from GitHub. – Buffy Mar 13 '19 at 12:41
  • @Buffy you don’t need a degree to be a software engineer – jerlich Mar 13 '19 at 15:02
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    Software engineering and computer science are not the same thing. – anomaly Mar 13 '19 at 15:42
  • "...probably know this guy is not honest..." - only in their own department, not if the students apply elsewhere. The lightning has to strike twice in the same place for flags to start becoming red. In the meantime, the student's future has been damaged. – Captain Emacs Mar 13 '19 at 18:54
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    I don't understand all the downvotes either. Perhaps people are thinking about PhD students. Most Masters' students don't even have advisors. Just get recommendations from a couple professors who liked you instead. – A Simple Algorithm Apr 12 '19 at 20:16

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