I am reconsidering whether I want a professor's (call him X) letter of recommendation for a PhD program. The basic facts are these:
I took Dr. X's class and did well. He encouraged me to apply to a PhD program in his field, and I took his advice. At that time, he offered to write me a strong letter of recommendation.
More recently, I requested via email a letter of recommendation from X. I'm certain that he expected this request, and we are on good terms.
He did not respond to my request. I managed to find him in person to ask; he said that he's already responded to my email and agreed to write it, and brushed me off in a somewhat impatient manner.
I found this interaction off putting and certainly unexpected.
This is my rationalization for what happened:
X is very busy and does not want to write me a letter. But he promised in the past and I remained in contact with him since.
Moreover, I already have stronger recommendation letters that I can use.
Here is my current plan:
- I will see professor X at least one more time to give him materials for the recommendation. I plan to see his reaction then, and how to proceed.
Question: Is there a polite way for me to ask whether he wants to write the letter, and possibly "let him off the hook"? (I don't even know whether this is the right question to ask, because honestly I don't what the right thing to do is.)
The problem is that I don't want to second-guess him, but I don't want a negative letter either. Additionally, if he's already written a letter, I don't want to waste his time.
I am based in the US, if that matters.