An Open Letter in Defense of Rebecca Schuman

announce[We at ProfHacker care a lot about creating a congenial environment for discussion. Our commenting and community guidelines differ from the rest of the Chronicle in that we have a zero-snark tolerance policy. We want to encourage thoughtful, if critical discussion, but find that trollish comments only hinder this.

On this note, we are hosting an Open Letter in defense of Rebecca Schuman (@pankisseskafka), an adjunct instructor and freelance writer who published a provocative article on the college essay in Slate last week. Since the post was published, Schuman has experienced an overwhelming amount of hostile criticism, some even extending to threats to have her removed from her current position. Thank you to Roopika Risam (@roopikarisam) and Roger Whitson (@rogerwhitson) for helping to coordinate the organization of the letter.

If you wish to sign the open letter, please sign it via this petition. Thanks!--AK]

An Open Letter in Defense of Rebecca Schuman

We, the undersigned, are appalled at the harassment Rebecca Schuman has received in response to her piece “The End of the College Essay.” The piece has engendered a range of vitriol, ranging from threats on social media to attempts to contact the University of Missouri, St. Louis and have her dismissed from her job. Several of these responses have come from people with more job security and power than is afforded to Schuman in her adjunct position. Some of the responses have even included public demeaning of her students.

While we may not agree with the arguments within Schuman’s piece, we assert her right as a writer, a teacher, and a scholar to:

  1. add to the academic conversation surrounding writing pedagogy, academic politics, and adjunct teaching;
  2. not be harassed by people who disagree with her;
  3. not be threatened with dismissal for her ideas.

We believe that social media should allow a larger range of ideas to flourish, and we find it alarming that it is being used for precisely the opposite purpose. Those who believe in the benefit of assigning essays should engage with Schuman’s ideas, as any intellectual would, rather than vilify her. We wish to remind our colleagues about the virtues of academic freedom, the value of provocation, and the prescient need to be reflective about our teaching and intellectual work.


Emilie Amt, Hood College
Adam Arenson, University of Texas at El Paso
Benjamin Balthaser, Indiana University, South Bend
Aaron Bady, University of Texas, Austin
Wesley Beal, Lyon College
Warner A. Belanger III, Georgia College & Statue University
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Morehead State University
Brenda Bethman, University of Missouri, Kansas City
Brianne Bolin, Columbia College Chicago
Gerry Canavan, Marquette University
Carla S. Cerino, Adjunct, Middlesex Community College
Brian Croxall, Emory University
Jonathan Dettman, University of Nebraska, Kearney
James J. Donahue, State University of New York, Potsdam
Jay Driskell, Hood College
Jennifer Ebbeler, University of Texas, Austin
Joshua Eyler, Rice University
Ana M. Fores Tamayo, Adjunct Justice
P. Kerim Friedman, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan
Joseph Fruscione, George Washington University
Karen Gregory, CUNY Graduate Center
David Golumbia, Virginia Commonwealth University
Danielle Hathcock, Ozark Technical Community College
Jon Hegglund, Washington State University
Leeann Hunter, Washington State University
Noel Jackson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eileen A. Joy, BABEL Working Group; punctum books
David Kaib, American University, Independent Scholar
Sarah Kendzior, Independent Scholar; Columnist for Al-Jazeera English
Katie King, University of Maryland, College Park
Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton College
Ann Kottner, New Jersey City University; York College; CUNY
Jessica Langer, Independent Scholar; Founder, Ideas in Flight
Clarissa AL Lee, Duke University
Carla D. Martin, Harvard University
Regina Martin, Denison University
Paige Morgan, University of Washington
Chris Newfield, University of California, Santa Barbara
Michael O’Rourke, Independent Colleges, Dublin, Ireland
Jeramia Ory, King’s College; Commonwealth Medical College
T.L. Mack-Piccone, Texas State University; Texas A&M University; Independent Scholar; Labor Organizer, SEIU
William Pannapacker, Hope College
Chuck Pearson, Virginia Intermont College
Annemarie Pérez, Loyola Marymount University
Jacob Remes, SUNY Empire State College; Harvard University
Anthony Reed, Yale University
Todd Reynolds, Independent Scholar; Labor Organizer; AFT-Maryland, MD
Cedar Riener, Randolph-Macon College
Roopika Risam, Salem State University
Philip Sandifer, Independent Scholar
Anastasia Salter, University of Baltimore
Christopher Schaberg, Loyola University
Brandy Schillace, Case Western Reserve University
Valéria M. Souza, Washington University
Karl Steel, Brooklyn College; City University of New York
Bonnie Stewart, University of Prince Edward Island
Lindsay Thomas, University of California, Santa Barbara
Katie L. Thompson, George Mason University
Sara Tracey, University of Illinois at Chicago
Desiree L. Ward, Independent Scholar; Texas
Roger Whitson, Washington State University
George H. Williams, University of South Carolina Upstate

[Image from katinkanits on Flickr]

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