Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Although this story has been circulating for over a week, I just came across it a few days ago. Basically, here's the situation in brief: Janette Turner Hospital used to run the Creative Writing program at the University of South Carolina; this year she either left or retired from USC, and took up an adjunct position at Columbia University in New York City. In September, she sent an email to all of the USC students, informing them of 'opportunities' they could take advantage of in NYC. The email, however, spends a great deal of time discussing how great the Columbia program is, with the implicit suggestion that USC's program is second rate, leading Gawker to describe it as 'the world's haughtiest email'. You can read it for yourself and decide.
Since the email appeared, former students have also come out of the woodwork to complain about Hospital. Moreover, a Huffington Post article has also pointed out that many of the email's claims about the Columbia program are untrue (and that USC is arguably a better program).
I don't know Hospital and have never read her books--what interests me about this is that this emailgate could only occur in a 'prestige' system like the U.S., where rankings are hugely important to university programs, and particularly to Creative Writing. In the most recent issue of Kill Your Darlings, I discuss the differences between U.S. and Australian Creative Writing Programs, and why I prefer the latter. While there are, of course, distinctions between Universities here in Australia, they are much less rigid, and, personally, I'm quite thankful for that.
Posted by Emmett Stinson at 11:16 AM