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Do professors recommend their students on LinkedIn? If they do recommend, isn't it considered a violation of FERPA?

Professors are typically required to recommend without fear or inhibition towards the student who he is recommending. A professor will be much more candid with his recommendation when his student waives his rights to see his recommendation. In that case recommendations on LinkedIn are probably a waste for academia right?

What would your opinion be on taking a letter of recommendation from a professor who has already recommended you on LinkedIn then?

Third, the letter of recommendation, when completed, becomes an education record. Both the paper copy and e-file are education records… and it makes no difference where they are filed. Since FERPA grants the student the right to inspect any education record, there is also an unwritten obligation to notify the writer of this right.

In this latter instance, the placement office, or student, should initially provide each writer with the knowledge that the student has either waived, or not waived, his right to subsequently review the letter. This knowledge may influence what the writer includes in the letter. It may persuade the person to whom a reference request was made to politely decline to write the letter. Unfortunately, letter writers do not have the same rights that students have in the letter-writing process.

Therefore , students generally waive their rights to view their letters of recommendation. Now, when you post a recommendation on LinkedIn, it will be displayed(provided the student accepts the recommendation). This might actually influence the writer of the letter to write a more positive recommendation than intended for the the student.

Now, an influenced letter is probably a waste for academia right? Or for any kind of work at all?

And if a professor is candid in his LinkedIn recommendation and mentions the student's performance objectively(say perhaps about the student's grades) then it does become a violation of FERPA right?

This is what I'd like to ask Professors in Academia now: If a student asks for a LinkedIn Recommendation , will it hold any value?

  • Could you be more specific: in what way do you think it is a violation of FERPA? – F'x Nov 2 '12 at 7:28
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I have, in the past, recommended students on LinkedIn, when requested by them. This applies, in particular, to PhD students shortly before or after their defense, who were looking for a position outside academia and in the private sector. In chemical engineering, the situation of that academics tend not to use LinkedIn for looking up/assessing prospective hires, while it is widely used outside academia (and I believe this is true of other fields).

For this reason, I maintain a small presence on LinkedIn myself, because:

  1. This is one of the ways I can help (by networking and recommendations) my former students find a job, which is part of a PhD adviser’s responsibilities.
  2. I might want a job outside academia at some point in my career, too!

Regarding FERPA compliance, I am not US-based so I have little knowledge about it. This webpage on “FERPA Compliance [for] Recommendation Letter Writers” implies that compliance mostly puts constraints on the content of the letter (which should not include “education records”).

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