Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seth Abramson's Open Letter to AWP

I find this to be an extremely well-reasoned response to the recent controversy surrounding the rankings published in Poets & Writer's Magazine. In particular, he does a good job taking AWP to task for not being upfront with their lack of viable information, despite their insistence that they do possess some of this data. (Since my last post on this subject I found out that I am indeed a member of AWP. Yet as far as I can tell, the data on program acceptance rates and funding Matt Burriesci talked about in his letter on the AWP website is nowhere to be found) As always, read and discuss!


  1. I think the rankings deserve their place as one tool that can steer people to refine their own research. I've read school websites extensively and have made my decisions based mostly on what the schools said about themselves. However, I wouldn't have even known about some of them if it weren't for the MFA Weblog and TSE. (The AWP website is not comprehensive. Does anyone actually think that it is? Seriously?) I scanned the rankings to make sure that I looked at all the schools listed. However, I knew that my own set of variables would be most important in determining whether a school was a potentially good fit for me, not a list that gave it #3 or #12. It's been a helpful resource for me, for sure.

    It would be great if other stakeholders mentioned by the AWP and others could be included in future research. I'd love to hear from faculty and directly from schools about their acceptance rates. If I read things correctly, these things are largely unavailable. If that's true, then maybe our response should be: Wow, imagine what could be done if we actually had access to that information too.

    While prospective MFA students don't, in fact, have any real life experience with programs as of yet, I am embarrassed to admit that I have certain sections of school websites memorized. I know what the schools are saying about themselves. Applicants know this better than just about anyone in my unscientific opinion. We have to, especially if we want funding. So, I don't think it's fair to completely write us off as not having anything to contribute to a survey.Again, the other stakeholders, if possible, should be included in the future. But it sounds like Seth tried to get them and couldn't. I mean, it's a start, and I think he deserves credit for that.

    Anyway, this is an oppprtunity for the AWP to respond with additional helpful information. If this is the beginning of increased transparency then I am all for it.

  2. I also wish AWP would provide more details on specifics of each program. It would be nice, since they are such a big organization, to see them do a yearly survey of things applicants really want to know. That way there doesn't have to be a "ranking" per se but instead a database of details to pull from.

    Like I'm considering a PhD at some point (if I don't get anymore grey) and I'd like to have a quick place to go that tells me about funding for all programs. I don't care if they are ranked, I just want the raw data :)

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