Dear Committee Members is the second novel from PEN/Hemingway award finalist and creative writing professor Julie Schumacher. Written entirely in the form of letters of recommendation, the novel relays the academic trials and tribulations of Jason Fitger, a floundering novelist, creative writing professor and self-proclaimed "dinosaur" in the rapidly changing landscape of liberal arts education. At a time when literature departments are in danger of extinction and bureaucrats wield unprecedented power over university funds, Fitger aspires to speak truth to power through his rambling, disjointed, and cranky letters of recommendation. The best use for these letters, he believes, is not to praise his misguided students and colleagues but to [...]
Recently I decided to check in with Glenn Beck. (I do this semi-regularly with all the various cable news talk shows out of a sense of responsibility, though I never last more than about 10 minutes at a stretch.) I was not optimistic. Based on the clips I'd been exposed to by people who don't like Glenn Beck, I expected a mix between a revival meeting, a Klan rally, and the McCarthy hearings. Instead, I got Glenn in front of a blackboard, lecturing about…Calvin Coolidge.
I found this hilarious. In terms of presidents, it's like giving a lecture about James Bond focused entirely on George Lazenby. Coolidge lucked [...]
"The thing was, he was a very nice man. All the men who attended the seminars were very nice men—also quite brave men, because they’d catch flack on their campuses for going to a women’s college to do a feminist seminar. And I found myself going back and forth in my mind over the question, Are these nice men, or are they oppressive? I thought I had to choose. It hadn't occurred to me that you could be both."
Michael Sayeau, now at University College London, returned from last week's conference entitled "On the Idea of Communism" in somewhat low spirits regarding the state of academic conferencing. Our papers, we tell ourselves, are incisive critiques of the status quo. But how intimidated is the status quo by a rigorous Marxist analysis of Philip Larkin's "Whitsun Weddings" anyway? It doesn't help that Power, despite our repeated invitations, rarely shows up at events like "Rethinking Modernities" to suffer our blistering remarks.
I wrote a thing last fall about massive open online courses (MOOCs, in the parlance), and the challenge that free or cheap online classes pose to business as usual in higher ed. In that piece, I compared the people running colleges today to music industry executives in the age of Napster. (This was not a flattering comparison.) Aaron Bady, a cultural critic and doctoral candidate at Berkeley, objected. I replied to Bady, one thing led to another, the slippery slope was slupped, and Maria Bustillos ended up refereeing the whole thing here on The Awl.
Bustillos sees institutions like San Jose State experimenting with credit for [...]