Jump to content

Controversial recommender?

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone, I just posted in the Am I competitive thread so I'm not specifically asking what my chances are here in this topic. But I had a more general question. I briefly worked for a well-known foreign politician who became sort of a mentor for me and wrote one of my recommendations for SIPA, Elliott, SAIS, Georgetown SFS, and tufts. I thought having a personalized letter from a well-known politician would be great for my application (I also have letters from professors and my direct supervisor).

However, a US newspaper recently published an unflattering story about my recommender, implying that some universities had concerns about his character and behavior. I have only known him to be professional so i was shocked - and very upset of course. I knew all along that he was a controversial figure, but had no idea that he had any sort of negative reputation at American universities.

Anyway, the letter is sent - so in can't do much except wait. But I'm looking for some peace of mind or at least honest feedback- do you think that his name associated with mine will hurt my chances? The letter itself is not the issue; I am sure it's fine. Anyone been in this situation before?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, I'm just going to give you my unqualified opinion...


1) The fact that this politician got on the wrong side of the media was not YOUR fault. That being said, we as applicants do have a responsibility to choose people with integrity to vouch for us. But as you did not have knowledge of all this you can:


a) Choose a new referee. You are early with your submissions. With the exception of SIPA, the early notification deadlines of Fletcher and SAIS at least are still open. You can add a new referee after submission, as far as I know. I doubt they have started reviewing apps yet. If these news reports are REALLY bad- like he extorted money or killed someone, then I think it might be a good idea to choose a new person. If the reports are just conjecture, then let it be.


B) Tufts Adcom is really nice. Would you want to try and explain this to them on the phone and see what they say? You can take a call for the other Univs accordingly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks - I appreciate your advice! I'm going to ask another of my professors for a recommendation, since certain aspects of this report (in NYT) really cast aspersions on his character, not to the extent of murdering people or extorting money, but still not good. What worried me was they actually quoted a representative of one of the universities on my list saying they would not hire him to speak there because of his personal behavior. 


I guess my only clarification would be, he sent the letters already (I got started on my applications really early, since I had a long break from work this summer, and I submitted all of them by now). So the universities already know I'm affiliated with him somehow. I'll definitely ask another professor to send a recommendation but I can't change my application. Really only posted here to gauge how big of a strike against me this could be, especially since I'm applying for Area Studies with an eye on a State Dept career. 


Either way, I will definitely take your advice and reach out to the adcoms to discuss. Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use