While we would prefer that students follow generally accepted protocol and ask permission in advance of using your name as a reference, you may still be able to provide assistance. First, if this is a frequent occurrence, you may wish to notify your current and future students that they need to discuss this with you in advance. Second, you should require written permission from each student who wishes to use you as a reference. For you to discuss the student and his/her performance freely, the permission needs to be worded very broadly. If the authorization is worded narrowly, be certain that you only discuss those areas which you have been given permission to disclose.