Serving as a reference for job candidates has become an issue of concern for faculty members and employment supervisors. Legal and ethical issues complicate the process.

Basic guidelines are available that can help you serve your students as a reference while avoiding legal problems.

According to a "client alert" prepared for the university by its legal counsel in 1995, Indiana law requires that employers "provide to an applicant, when requested, copies of any written communications from the applicant's current or former employers that may affect the applicant's possibility of employment." This law might be interpreted to include references written by faculty members as well. It also apparently invalidates any waiver of rights to see recommendation letters.

For a copy of the client alert, call University Human Resource Services, 285-1834.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers has published "A Faculty Guide to Ethical and Legal Standards in Student Hiring," which, despite its title, focuses on helping students get hired rather than on hiring them. Karen Simpkins, J.D., at Eastern Michigan University, has prepared "Writing Reference Letters: A Guide for Faculty." Call 285-2430 for a copy.