An Entire MFA cohort drops out

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That’s really awful. It’s hard enough dealing with the normal college bureaucracy BS. It sounds like that group got screwed over.

I read through this (very slowly) whilst watching Ex Machina, which raises very difficult questions of authority and trust in general. And so, I felt a synthesis of anger and fear at the trend in culture which this situation appears to exemplify.

Is this really a case of a well placed minority of individuals harvesting financial gains from institutions and systems which intersect the flow of large amounts of money? An effect of the more general situation of financial manipulation in the world markets at large? It seems so.

What does this mean for culture in general? Can we avoid a total cultural, (never mind financial) structural collapse, if those placed to avert it actually engender and hasten the process in their attempts to emplace themselves within a bubble of relative safety in an attempt to protect themselves from that which they would create?

Cultural theorists whose ideas I respect seem to believe that it is possible to turn away from this programmed inevitability, but beneath their rhetoric I think I detect very troubling predictions. The antidotes and balms they offer seem to me to be seeds designed for very harsh environmental conditions.

I have no doubt that there are many, emplaced within the corridors of power who see their manipulations as an inevitable consequence of cultural reality. That their perception of themselves is of having to do the immoral but totally necessary evil, for the greater good.

Or maybe they are just protecting their own protracted dissolution as they wait for the grave.

Well, that was a bummer. Apologies.

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As much as I sympathize with the MFA students and agree with their actions because of the apparent policy reversal by USC, I have to wonder if they themselves haven’t been (or wouldn’t have been) the beneficiaries of this excess that they accuse the school of. The promise by USC of a teaching fellowship that covers most if not all of tuition plus a stipend, that leaves the graduate student with no debt after earning a masters degree, is funded by somebody somewhere, likely by the undergraduate programs that have also seen astronomical increases in tuition, and are increasingly taught by TAs rather than full professors. There is no “free” degree, and it seems the masters students in this case are simply being confronted with the economical reality that they must absorb the cost of their program, and that as first year MFA students they probably aren’t qualified to be teaching, and shouldn’t be in those roles.

I know much of academia has a tradition of these kinds of arrangements, though I don’t know the exact financial details of all programs, or how far either the old plan they were promised or the new plan they got deviate from the norm. And again I’m not endorsing the bait-and-switch by USC, but it does seem to me that the entire college system needs to be reformed and that maybe these graduate students are victims in what otherwise could be a legitimate attempt to make change.

Note: I realize that this is probably going to be an unpopular idea, and actually I’m not so sure how comfortable with it I am myself - I’m usually the man fighting the man. So I look forward to well reasoned retorts.

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It appears form their description that you are not incorrect about the restructuring going on and the necessity of the MFA students to absorb a greater cost. Perhaps that is just an absolute reality to which the institution is completely vulnerable.

But what strikes me, from their description, is the twisted mismanagement and acute bad faith which with they were treated.

It’s an easy accusation to make and I’m cognisant of the potential for folly in making it, but isn’t jumping to the conclusion that the administrations actions are ethically motivated, fall headlong into the just-world fallacy? Doesn’t that make us all vulnerable to the manipulations and fleecing that the students indicate they have been subjected to?

edit: words and such


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