I just received a dismaying message on Twitter from a reader who reports of a department withdrawing an MLA interview offer because the candidate cannot afford to fly to Vancouver, Canada, stay in an expensive hotel, buy an expensive suit, renew his/her passport, all for a 30-minute initial screening interview. The candidate requested switching to Skype and apparently the interview offer was pulled.
So…instead of (or perhaps in addition to) my usual “hissyfit,” I also thought I would completely bite the idea (from last year) of my friend Karen Kelsky (the PhD Debt Project) and launch The MLA Cost Project. I want to know how much it is really costing you, out of pocket, to attend the 2015 MLA.
So please do me a favor and click on this link to a public and publicly editable (I think? I HOPE?) Google Doc, or this link to a survey-style Google FORM, where you can fill in all the pertinent deets in TOTAL ANONYMITY (both formats go to the same place, and I’m not a scientist and if the IHE troll brigade wants to fuck with my data collection abilities it can give me a social science PhD which I don’t have).
The first line in the Doc is a sample by me, and it’s the hypothetical cost I would be incurring if I hypothetically went this year. My passport is expired, flights from STL are in the $700 range, and obviously I’d have to get a new suit to fit my, erm, ample figure.
Please don’t be afraid to do this — I am (if you can believe it) quite cordial with the MLA leadership and they actively want to know what they can do to make the convention less of a burden to contingent faculty and grad students. I think actually knowing how much it costs is a good first step.
This doc may also help interviewing departments like the one above see the error of their ways, and be willing to swap for Skype.
It may ALSO also — fingers crossed — encourage the MLA to make a new guideline or bylaw that any department interviewing at the convention MUST offer a videoconference or telephone option in the event an interviewee can’t make it to the convention. (A great idea if I do say so myself, and I do).
Obviously I’m not going to be there because a) I am nearing full-term pregnant, and b) I would rather die than ever set foot at that godforsaken gathering of name-tag snobs and flop-sweat covered interviewees ever again. I mean, if you like conferences, then you go, and you do you, and see old friends, and have fun and get drunk, and be great. Just not my thing, and every year around this time I thank my lucky stars that I never have to go again. (This year I am doubly thankful because instead of spending Christmas break miserably prepping for my one interview, I am spending it joyously prepping for the arrival of our baby AND joyously pounding out my book manuscript.)