[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 Change.org 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:
- add to the academic conversation surrounding writing pedagogy, academic politics, and adjunct teaching;
- not be harassed by people who disagree with her;
- 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.