If you are an adviser of graduate students. and if prospective students contact you to ask you about your research and research program:
1. Do you encourage prospective students to contact your current or recent graduate students for a student-eye-view of you as an adviser, for information about the department climate etc.? (why/why not?)
If you encourage this type of contact:
2. For how long do you suggest recent graduate students as sources of useful information? Within a year or two of when they graduated, for longer than that, or for much longer (especially if they say nice things)? That is, what is the shelf life of graduated students as resources for new students?
3. Do you 'cherry pick' the current/former students whom you list as good sources of information, or do you tell prospective students to contact any of your students?
4. If you are selective in your recommendations, is it because you think it most useful to mention those students with interests that seem most similar to those of the prospective student, or do you specifically avoid your crankiest students?
My answers are:
1. I encourage contact, as long as it's OK with the student being contacted and asked for their time/opinions.
2. This was actually the question that started me thinking about this topic. I lose track of time so easily these days, I'm not sure of the answer. Maybe a few years? At least 2 but less than 5ish?
3-4. I encourage contact with anyone, but may point out a few particular ones with similar interests.
Some of my colleagues use different schemes, so I suspect there will be no consensus, but I'm curious as to whether there is a dominant philosophy with respect to these issues.
6 months ago