My professor returned a gift I gave her for writing me a letter of recommendation - was I in the wrong?

My college professor who teaches five classes and recently had her second child (in other words, she's SUPER busy!) agreed to write me a letter of recommendation about a month ago. About two weeks after she gave me the letter, I gave her a hand-written thank you card and a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant. I really like her a lot, and I wanted to know how much I appreciated what she did for me, because she didn't have to do it, even if I am a good student. Besides, she's so busy, so her writing me a letter was a really nice thing. However, she returned the gift card, saying it "wasn't necessary," and that the thank you card was enough. She wasn't exactly mean about it, but it was very uncomfortable. I felt mortified, and cried a bit about it later that night. I'm worried she thought I was bribing her or something, even though I only gave her a gift AFTER I got the letter. I still feel incredibly humiliated and stupid, especially considering that you can't return a gift card! Was I in the wrong? I have always given a thank you gift after receiving a letter of recommendation, and I know a lot of other students do...

Update:

It's not against the rules to give a teacher a gift at my school. Like I mentioned, many of my friends give small gifts after teachers take the time to write them letters.

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    I had a professor who told a story about a lovely statue he received from a student for whom he wrote a recommendation. He said (as someone else has already mentioned) that it would seem very much like a "quid pro quo" arrangement, but he could not return the gift and so donated it to his department. Your professor was probably in the same position.

    However, I think your professor was extremely grateful to be thanked. Professors write letters of recommendation often and they are not expected (and do not expect) to be compensated. Helping students out is quite literally one of the things professors are hired for and if you are in college, your professors most likely WANT to be there and love doing favors for students. (I was told it is an honor to be asked for a recommendation.) Your professor obviously went above and beyond the call of duty for your recommendation, and so thanking her in and of itself was not out of line.

    Still, receiving a significant material gift in gratitude (as opposed to say, just being friends with someone and giving them a present) seems like you are trying to return a favor. So it could also be the case that your professor may have been offended by your offering, although she most likely understood that you didn't mean any harm. I believe she did not want to embarrass you by explaining the reasoning why (because if she did, it will sound accusatory, whether or not she means it to be, and you probably would have been much more upset).

    Rejection is not something to be mortified about. She obviously likes you if you got a recommendation from her, and I don't think she will dislike you. She will certainly be understanding because she probably knows that returning the gift embarrassed you, so you won't have to have awkward conversations. I asked a professor for a recommendation and was turned down (a terribly humiliating experience). I was so embarrassed but I really wanted to talk to her about other things too, so I braved seeing her again and now I talk to her regularly.

    If you want to stay in touch with her or thank her in another way, I would ask her if she would mind if you gave her some homemade food or baked goods. I am not sure if your professor likes sweets, but I have not had professors who turned things like that down. They do appreciate hand-made things, just as they appreciate hand-written letters. There is really no compunction against something that is edible and can be consumed right away (and it is obvious you're not trying to bribe anyone).

    Source(s): Personal experience in college. I have received several recommendations and given out baked goods and thank-you notes, and have heard a professor's side of the story.
  • 3 years ago

    Gifts For Professors

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    My professor returned a gift I gave her for writing me a letter of recommendation - was I in the wrong?

    My college professor who teaches five classes and recently had her second child (in other words, she's SUPER busy!) agreed to write me a letter of recommendation about a month ago. About two weeks after she gave me the letter, I gave her a hand-written thank you card and a gift certificate to...

    Source(s): professor returned gift gave writing letter recommendation wrong: https://tr.im/q0vt9
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Actually the first answerer is right. It makes sense. Beyond that, what an awful feeling. It seems you can't do something from the heart anymore without there being legal implications or people being just plain paranoid. What a sad world we live in these days.

    p.s. You weren't "wrong", in the sense that you went out of your way to show your appreciation for what your professor did. You didn't expect anything in return for doing so. It was just a sheer act of good nature (ech, sorry that isn't worded exactly right). Anyway, what I'm trying to say is don't let that stop you from being the kind of person you are in the future. It was a wonderful thing you did.....too bad there are so many loopholes for misunderstanding.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Actually, this happened to me with my high school teacher.

    I gave her a gift card with a thank you note, but she returned the gift card and said that the reason she is a teacher is so she can do things like write letters for students and that the thank-you note is more than enough.

    She wasn't being rude, trust me.

  • 1 decade ago

    No, you were not wrong. You just wanted to give her a present to thank her for her help.

    She was rude. Giving a gift to a professor should not be considered wrong. It really depends what kind of gift and what are the circumstances around the gift.

  • 1 decade ago

    Don't take this personally OK people have their own reasons for doing things that maybe we can't understand. Especially in her position I can see her point though in this she's your college professor & I guess she feels she's just doing her job You know what I mean alot of professions are like this OK

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It may be against the policy of your school for professors to receive any type of gift from their students. It was policy at my old job and Ive had to return gifts, gift cards, bottles of wine etc... for my boss. Dont be offended. Besides, shes probably written many recommendations and doesnt need to be rewarded for it. Her reward is your success.

  • 1 decade ago

    she did the right thing in returning the gift, it could appear as though you were 'buying' her recommendation. A thank you card is sufficient.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I see her point, and I'm sure she does this regularly because she considers it a conflict of interest because you are still a student of hers and she will have to issue a grade for you. I agree with her.

    I would imagine she has boundaries about the value of gifts that she would accept; for instance, a candle or box of chocolates, but your gift certificate was too much for her to feel comfortable about.

    She appreciated the thought.

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