An Open Letter to MLA Executive Director Rosemary Feal

UPDATE:  I have removed from this letter two inappropriate analogies that compared the MLA’s failure to act directly on behalf of its non tenured members to citizens in Nazi Germany and Penn State during the sexual abuse scandal surrounding its football team.  I apologize to both Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of the MLA, and Michael Berube, its First Vice President, for this needlessly inflammatory rhetoric. Neither comparison is justified.  The rest of the argument stands awaiting an answer (12/06/2011). 

I wrote this open letter in response to a spirited discussion that took place this Sunday between myself and MLA Executive Director Rosemary Feal via Twitter.  Having worked in academia for some time, I hold no illusions as to the efficacy of my words.  I wrote this open letter primarily because it was the right thing to do.  Too many non-tenured faculty are silent out of fear.  I refuse to keep living in darkness.  Here is a little piece of light.  Hic Placet.

An Open Letter to Rosemary Feal

Executive Director of the Modern Language Association

November 21, 2011

Director Feal:

On Sunday, November 20, we engaged in a spirited conversation via Twitter about the role of the Modern Language Association (MLA) in advocating for non-tenure track faculty.  I claimed in my initial tweet that the organization was woefully behind the times and you asked me for specific examples to explain my position.  To your initial inquiry, I replied with a list of requests, starting with a call for a change in attitude of tenure track faculty towards adjuncts and moving on to more tangible demands for equity of resources (i.e. computers and office space) and opportunities for professional development such as sabbatical leaves and the ability to design new courses.  Your reply to my list of requests was that each item on it was a “university issue” and related to the “profession” more than the “organization” that is the MLA.  Following this observation, you requested that I more fully articulate what I believed the MLA was not doing for its adjunct members.  In your words, you asked me to tell you “what a scholarly/professional association like the MLA can do for its members.”  I write this open letter to you in response to your request.

Perhaps the best place to begin is with your distinction between the university, the profession, and the MLA as a “scholarly/professional organization.”  The way in which you reference these terms makes it unclear to me whether you believe these spheres overlap or are distinct regions within Higher Education.  My impression from your tweets is that you view the MLA as a sacred space—distinct from the schools that employee its members and the disciplines it represents.  As a long time student of the work of Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, I cannot help but see such a distinction as a fallacy of the highest order.  It is impossible to separate “the profession” from the organization that represents its many branches.  Likewise it is not possible to separate the MLA as “a professional/scholarly organization” from the campuses where that organization’s goals are (at least in theory) expressed.  These spheres are interlocking and mutually supportive.  Together they have long worked to enforce the status quo in research, teaching, training, hiring, and disciplinary structure.

In response to my complaints about the MLA’s support of the status quo, you brought to my attention the work of the executive council, delegate assembly, and various committees of the organization such as that on “contingent labor” (a term that I despise for its dehumanizing connotations).  You assert that great strides have been made in the last five years.  As a member of the MLA for over a decade, I can assert that from the ground upon which I stand little seems to have changed for the better in the academic landscape.  In fact, conditions have grown steadily worse.  Every committee report and nonbinding resolution only signals for the other half of academia a reality that they as non-tenured faculty already knew.  Statistics and statements mock rather than comfort.  They suggest failure and futility rather than foster hope and innovation.  What we (i.e. the non-tenured members of the MLA) need Director Feal is not another proclamation, study, discussion group, or committee.  What we need now more than anything is action.

You rightly assert that the MLA cannot effect structural changes in Higher Education on its own.  Individual members, particularly tenured members, and the schools in which they work must shoulder their part of the burden.  However, the tone of your remarks resounds heavily with the ethos of “passing the buck.”  “We at the MLA have done our part,” you imply, “Others have dropped the ball and let you down.  Our hands are clean.”  Somehow the MLA manages, in your view, to stand pure and whole in the middle of an ocean of dysfunction in which its members swim.  Perhaps they receive a magic towel to dry themselves off when they enter the halls of 26 Broadway or preen on the convention floor.

The time is now Director Feal.  The MLA must lead or be left behind.  If the organization is up to the challenge, here are five suggestions from a member of its heretofore silenced majority.  Five ways to take action on behalf of non-tenure track faculty rather than writing more speeches on their “condition”:

1.  Leadership positions in the MLA must be made to more accurately reflect the heterogeneous nature of its membership.  How is it that an organization of nearly 30,000 individual members has no community college faculty let alone non-tenure track faculty in its main governing body—the executive council?  Standing committees on contingent labor and community colleges not only represent tokenism at its worst but have all the trappings of a ghetto for paying members who don’t fit the MLA’s desired type (i.e The Research One Tenured Professor).

2. There must be consequences for members both individual and institutional who do not abide by the already existing resolutions on academic labor.  One reason that talk about the “condition” of non-tenure track faculty is cheap is the official words of the MLA come with no power of enforcement.  The MLA needs to back its words with action.  Any member (individual or institutional) who does not abide by existing MLA resolutions on labor and workforce conditions should face potential expulsion from the organization or sanctions preventing them from accessing organizational resources.  Moreover, violators of MLA labor standards should be placed on a public list on the organization’s website and members should be warned not to engage in business of any kind with those institutions.

3. The MLA should learn from organizations such as HASTAC how to better incorporate alternative academic job paths into its convention and also its governance structure.  They should additionally lobby member institutions for changes in educational practice to make graduate students at the MA and PhD level aware of these nontraditional paths and give them an opportunity to train for jobs other than that of college teaching or research.  For those already in the non-tenured faculty pool, the MLA should create funds to help those interested in doing so to retrain.

4.  The MLA must quit its stance of neutrality.  At best it is acquiescence to the abuse of non-tenure track faculty and at worst it is complicit in the destruction of Higher Education.  The organization must become more active politically.  Its presence must be vocal and visible in the state capitals as well as Washington, D.C.  If the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) can do this, why can’t the MLA?

5. There should be limits to the number of times that a member can consecutively publish materials in the organization’s publications or present papers at the annual convention.  This would allow MLA members outside the upper tier to more actively take part in the scholarly activities associated with the organization.  Fresh voices provide fresh perspectives.  These in turn will allow the organization to change in order to meet the new exigencies of the twenty-first century.

Failure to take action will simply precipitate the decline of the MLA, which has become for many of its members no more than an acronym for a citation style and a place to interview for jobs.  I am cautiously optimistic that having gained your attention some of my suggestions might be at least considered if not implemented.  Whether this blessed outcome happens or not, I am nonetheless grateful to be noticed and taken seriously by a member of the Research One elite.  As an adjunct faculty member I am, quite frankly, used to being ignored or used as an example of what can happen to a profligate graduate student.  This letter offers me the opportunity to remind those in the inner sanctum of academe that I am not tenured but I am faculty.  I don’t have books published by scholarly presses but I am an intellectual.  I am unable to obtain a tenure track job but I am not a loser.  I am you but for a twist of fate and your patronizing resolutions hurt more than simply being ignored.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the reality that there are consequences for me writing this open letter.  As a non-tenured professor, I could easily have my contract “not renewed” (a handy euphemism for being fired) at any time for any reason.  I take this risk of perhaps losing my job on behalf of future generations of students (both undergraduate and graduate) as well as the inspiring non-tenure track faculty who increasingly teach them.  I have known in my eleven years of teaching as a Graduate Instructor and Adjunct Professor so many non-tenure track faculty that have given so much of their time and effort while receiving so little in compensation or recognition from their schools and the professional organizations that ostensibly represent them.  It is for this silent majority that I speak today.  I hope my words meet their approval.

Respectfully Yours,

John Casey, PhD

Adjunct Professor of English

University of Illinois at Chicago

and

Columbia College Chicago

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  1. #1 by Rita Rud on December 5, 2011 - 3:16 pm

    Apart from a lack of job security and half the pay of a starting assistant professor for teaching twice the course load, the huge barrier for advancement as an adjunct is that you get no financial support to attend and present at professional conferences, or for paid leave to complete research projects, like tenured faculty.
    Many tenured faculty seem to think that adjuncts either do not want to conduct research and write, or are not capable of it. How many tenured faculty would be productive scholars with double the teaching load, and no financial support for their research activities? The majority of adjuncts with PhDs and MFAs that I know are all trying to keep up with research and writing anyway.

  2. #2 by kintopp on December 1, 2011 - 9:48 am

    Rosemary Feal, Michael Bérubé and others in the MLA’s leadership are undoubtedly right in saying that the kinds of reforms under discussion can only be undertaken at the dean & provost level. This does not, however, make these officers immune from pressure. At my R1 institution a dean and a president were (in my reading of the events) forced to resign due to student & alumni pressure over issues ultimately related to the institution’s public representation of its academic reputation, another dean because of a lack of support from the provost and the division’s faculty on matters of strategic direction. Significant reforms in graduate funding were put in place (post haste!) not due to complaints from students but because an accreditation organization drew notice to this embarrassing discrepancy.

    Perception and reputation in the public eye (and thus, to donors) and amongst peers are hugely important to academic institutions. For this reason alone, “But our actions would only be symbolic” is not a valid rejoinder. Tell that to the leadership at UC Davis and the London School of Economics. I’m convinced that this is also true in the case of positive actions. It is in this sense that I can go back and support John Casey’s plea that “something” must happen. A clear, unambiguous & direct challenge from the MLA to universities & colleges to get their house in order and adapt to the new realities in the marketplace. I would have this come not from the leadership but have it put to the membership at large. Do it in a form that will put your own place on the EC at risk if the motion does not pass. You (the MLA leadership) can’t change a university’s policies – of course not. It’s not your job to cut down on the number of accepted graduate students, to better support the ones in the system and to prepare all of them for productive alt-ac careers in addition to the so-called “traditional” TT career paths. But you can make this issue the highest priority for the organization for the next five to ten years, you can engage far more vigorously and consistently on this issue with your own membership, with graduate student organizations, with associated bodies like accreditation boards and in other prominent, critically symbolic and effective ways. You (the MLA as a whole) can make it unmistakably clear that you have a dog in this fight.

  3. #3 by SUSAN BALÉE on November 24, 2011 - 10:15 am

    These issues are coming to a head, Prof. Casey — they certainly are at the school where I teach, Temple University. After speaking out a few weeks ago on the faculty senate listserv about the inequities endured by NTT and adjunct faculty v. T & TT fac, I was invited to come talk with the fac senate steering committee about these issues. I had Prof. Berube’s MLA Guidelines (extremely useful and detailed), and had been given other material to read by numerous NTTs who knew I was going to this meeting and had been writing me offline because they feared speaking publicly on the listserv would result in reprisals from their departments and colleges. (As you note, very real fears. Most of us here are on year-to-year contracts and non-renewal is the easy way to get rid of troublemakers, no matter how good they are as teachers.)

    There are many T & TT fac with great good will towards the lower strata of the hierarchy, but big schools are feudal. What I learned is that its the Board of Trustees and high-level administrators who do not want NTTs and adjuncts to have much power (after all, like slaves in the South near the end of the plantation system, we are numerous; if we can organize, there’s no telling what will happen to the system as it stands). We are 40% of the faculty at T.U. and teach more than half the classes. Department heads will do their best to get multi-year contracts and better teaching loads for their faculty, but deans often don’t want to give them out. They, supposedly, are following directives from the provost and above.

    It’s a sick system and if the entire university — with all its many schools — had to follow the same guidelines (and the MLA’s or the AAUP’s are good places to start), then this could not happen. No dean could say she didn’t know that teachers who have proven their merit deserve the security of a multi-year contract.

    If I had the energy (which I don’t, since I teach a 4/4 load and am looking for other jobs), I would lead the charge to get the NTTs/adjuncts organized in their own union. If WE went on strike, the university would be paralyzed. As it now stands, NTTs are in the union with T & TT faculty, and though the latter are sympathetic, they are doing very little to help us. Tis ever thus in a system that benefits some people at the expense of others. Those T & TT fac don’t want to teach another course, and they don’t have to as long as we have them on our shoulders. (Which would be fine, if we also had respect and opportunity, which we do not. And also if we didn’t do ANY service, yet we do. I am on a committee in my dept. and I give workshops on pedagogy. No course release for me, but I do it b/c people have to help o ut in their departments.)

    Rosemary Feal’s answer here is measured and good. Prof. Feal, you and I went a few rounds on e-mail many years ago over why I was letting my membership lapse in the MLA. I appreciate your passion, but you have to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand how they feel injustice. I can see you trying to do that here, which is the mark of how open-minded you are and how well you are able to counter righteous anger with compassion.

    This system is going to change, inevitably, and sooner rather than later. The body of victims here have Ph.D.’s and qualifications that make it certain they will not remain quiescent. I hope for a better future for all of us, but especially for our students, since they are really the ones we are meant to serve.

  4. #4 by Karen kelsky on November 23, 2011 - 2:03 pm

    Keep up the pressure, Professor Casey! I agree with you 100%. Empty injunctions to “all work together” are truly pointless, and as you say, likely insulting, when the vast majority of the tenured continue to recognize absolutely no incentive to do so. I don’t think MLA members are particularly activist in anything but writing “strongly worded” memos, statements, and reports. On my campuses I never saw them do much else, in the instances when real crisis was at hand. They are rarely on the Quad and in the streets, that’s for sure. (before you go there, yes, you can point to several at Berkeley, etc. recently, but a few high profile exceptions don’t exactly reflect an enormous organization and the massive departments it represents). In any case, thanks for your powerful words.

  5. #5 by Lee Skallerup (@readywriting) on November 23, 2011 - 1:58 pm

    Thank you for writing this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this much anger and frustration over the apparent inaction of the MLA (and to be fair, many other organizations) over the use of NTT faculty. I can’t say that I’m optimistic for concrete action from the MLA. It is, indeed, a member-driven organization. I have no idea what the membership stats are like, but we know from experience that most/many tenure-track and tenured professors have no interest in helping or improving the conditions of NTT faculty; again, you only have to read the comments left on various recent posts at the Chronicle and my own blog at IHE to see the dismissive and condescending attitude that we who are not on the TT face. Mark Bousquet suggested in a recent piece that ntt faculty, because of our numbers, could take over unions (or, one could imagine, the MLA). But many of us don’t, not because we are disinterested or satisfied with our positions, but because we are afraid (on the union front) of being fired (sorry, not renewed) or just plain sick and tired (on the MLA front) of being treated like second-class citizens within our own organization, not by the leaders, but by the rank-and-file TT faculty members the MLA represents.

    I don’t know what action we could take. This is where I am stuck at the moment. I will readily admit that I am not currently a member of the MLA for a number of reasons, but mostly because I always felt alienated from it, even when I was a part of it. But that might just be me.

    I think organizations like the MLA (or AHA or APSA or whoever) need to start not just advocating for NTT at the departmental level, but also at the university level. Until all branches of the university start seeing us as equal members of the university community, chairs will continue to be forced to make personnel decisions based on narrower and narrower dictums from on-high. It’s not just an English or Spanish or History problem; it’s a problem that the entire university is complicit in and until we address the problems from the top, we won’t succeed in making any real significant changes for those of us on the ground.

    Departments don’t need to be shamed, entire institutions need to be shamed.

  6. #6 by Rosemary G. Feal on November 23, 2011 - 11:34 am

    Dear Professor Casey,

    I’ve been thinking of how best to respond to your open letter, and it has taken me some time. I want to start by thanking you for being an MLA member and for speaking out. I also want to say that I agree with you on many points. I have been dismayed at how few realistic options there are for scholarly associations as we face the continuing deterioration of the hiring system.

    You say that this is a time for action, and I agree with you completely. Where we diverge, I think, is in our understanding of how action can be initiated and implemented. As you assert, the MLA is, of course, part of a system, a system in which we all participate (and are complicit, if you prefer that language).
    Yet the MLA’s participation has unique characteristics. As a membership organization, the MLA is governed by its members. The representatives who serve on the Executive Council are nominated and elected by the membership — and so while there are and have been council members who are students, who teach at community colleges, who are untenured or not on the tenure-track, and who come from non-elite institutions, that representation can only be increased or changed through member action.

    If there are specific actions in which you’d like the MLA to engage, they need to be communicated through those representatives, who in turn can advocate on members’ behalf. What can the MLA can do as a scholarly and professional association? We can represent our members publicly, and we can articulate standards that we hold for their behavior and for the profession. Many faculty members, department chairs, and deans tell me that our speaking out in public and our issuing standards have helped them make changes on campus.
    The MLA cannot, however, directly control the institutions where our members study and teach. Let’s say we wanted to take punitive action against a university that does not pay the minimum per-course salary we recommend. How would shutting the departments out of the MLA improve conditions for non-tenure-track faculty members? If the institution has a tenure-track job to advertise and we won’t list it because the university does not abide by our standards for non-tenure-track employment, whom do we punish most, the institution or job seekers? Even the AAUP doesn’t sanction institutions based on their overuse or underpay of non-tenure-track faculty members.

    The MLA has an active lobbying presence in DC. NCTE does most of its lobbying through the same means we do, and much of their lobbying is focused on K-12. We lobby for funding for the humanities and for the protection of Title VI programs, and so on. Academic staffing is not a federal issue per se. We work with the AFT, AAUP, COCAL, and other groups on their state-by-state efforts. And we are founders of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (www.academicworkforce.org).

    Most of our work takes the form of support for our members in their efforts to change institutional practices, and that may be the most important thing that a professional organization can provide. You may not feel supported by the MLA; you may even feel betrayed. It is true that we aren’t an accrediting group, a governing body, or a union; those organizations have very different roles than we have, and are therefore empowered to take very different kinds of action than we can. But we are engaged actively on the issues that you care about, and we will do more — especially if you and other members (like those who serve on the Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession) help us do it.

    Because all of us are part of higher education, we must work together for change. We’ve all been betrayed by a system that has roots much deeper than the ground on which the MLA is planted. We didn’t get here in a year, and we aren’t going to change all that needs changing in a year, either. But if you look at the MLA of recent times, I think you will see an Executive Council with a very different composition than a decade ago. You’ll see that we’ve taken positions no other comparable association has (and positions are a form of action: words may be cheap, but that doesn’t mean they are without value for the actions they can inspire).

    This is my honest view of things. I believe it may take massive social movements to reach the deep roots to which I alluded. Members of the MLA have always been willing to engage in meaningful action. I thank you for your willingness to do your part.

    Cordially,

    Rosemary G. Feal

  7. #7 by Sandra Baringer on November 22, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    As a former member of the executive committee of the MLA Part-time Faculty Discussion Group, I sometimes did feel like I was in a ghetto. As a member of the MLA Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession, I do not. Give the MLA a break for trying. The term ‘contingent,’ by the way, whether you like it or not, is the term used by the international ntt faculty advocacy group COCAL. Sure, I’d rather be called ‘new faculty majority,” but it is what it is: isn’t the fact that the labor conditions are dehumanizing the point we’re trying to make? Quibbling over terminology just gets in the way.

    • #8 by johnacaseyjr on November 22, 2011 - 5:51 pm

      Sandra,

      I’d prefer to be called a Professor as that is what I am regardless of my FTE. Although I respect your point that one should not get bogged down in terminology, I still find the term contingent offensive. If we spend time considering how to address minorities and immigrant workers, why is it too much to ask for thoughtful discussion of what to call part time and non-tenured faculty?

      “Trying” is precisely the problem. “Doing” is what is needed. See my point #2. Fine words butter no parsnips.

      Sincerely Yours,

      John Casey

  8. #9 by Michael Bérubé on November 22, 2011 - 4:15 pm

    Professor Casey–

    Thanks for writing this letter. The MLA was in fact the first scholarly organization to compose guidelines for the ethical treatment of NTT faculty. I know, because I helped to draft them back in 2003. Our Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession (I’m sorry you don’t like the phrase “contingent labor,” but I assure you it was chosen by NTT faculty themselves) has incorporated those guidelines into its recent report–

    http://www.mla.org/pdf/clip_stmt_final_may11.pdf

    –and we are very eager to hear suggestions about how to make our positions more widely known throughout higher education.

    You will find that the guidelines are quite specific, and not only call for a substantial change in the attitude of tenure track faculty towards adjuncts but also make a series of tangible demands for equity of resources. These include, but are not limited to, “regular offices, mailboxes, access to departmental communications, telephone and computer access, parking permits, library access, after-hours access to buildings, and access to departmental staff” as well as “orientation, mentoring, and professional support and development opportunities, including campus grant programs, access to sabbatical opportunities, support for travel for research, and support for participation in professional conferences.”

    You note that talk is cheap, and so it is. However, I am not sure precisely who we can “sanction” for failing to meet these standards, since institutions are not MLA members, and it is hardly just to bar an English or Spanish department from MLA resources (whatever that may mean– blocking a university’s computer access to the Bibliography? to PMLA?) because of wages and policies set at the dean’s or provost’s level. Rather, it seems to me that we need to start by promoting these guidelines more aggressively, via other scholarly societies, groups like the American Council on Education, organizations of NTT and adjunct faculty, COCAL (of which MLA is a member of long standing), etc.– because right now, clearly, most people don’t even know these guidelines exist.

    On a related note, the MLA began promoting “alternative careers” as early as 1998. The initial response from adjuncts and graduate students was surprisingly hostile, and as a result we backed off. But we’ll keep trying, this time by way of rethinking the nature of the dissertation and the question of how to reduce time-to-degree.

    Best wishes,
    Michael Bérubé

    • #10 by johnacaseyjr on November 22, 2011 - 6:19 pm

      Professor Berube,

      I must note that you are the first person to refer to me as professor (aside from my First Year students) in a long time. I thank you for that. I also thank you for pointing out the efforts done in the past on behalf of non-tenured and part-time faculty by the MLA. However, as I mention in my letter, words without the power of enforcement are of little value. The MLA needs to figure out how to enforce its pronouncements or stop making them. Not only are they tedious to read but insulting to those whose lives they never seem to help. Sanctions were one idea. Me thinking out loud. If you have other ideas, I’d truly love to hear them.

      As for alternative careers, only MA students were offered information on paths other than the PhD and the Research One University position when I entered graduate school in 2000. PhD students, it was assumed, would go on to write books and teach at major universities. An instance again of words without weight. The MLA’s activities on that issue may as well have not existed since no institutions, as far as I could see, applied them. What does the MLA plan to do in order to change that?

      Higher Education is in crisis Professor Berube. One deed now will speak louder than fifteen committee reports, studies, or statements. What is the MLA going to do to “promote these guidelines more aggressively” and when will that action start?

      Sincerely Yours,

      John Casey

  9. #11 by Dorothea Heitsch on November 22, 2011 - 11:03 am

    As a member of the MLA Executive Council and a Non-Tenure-Track faculty member I would like to briefly address two points made by Mr. Casey.
    The MLA, though it was founded as a scholarly society, has become more visible, under Rosemary Feal’s leadership, in lobbying efforts and in public discussions concerning trends in higher education. Russell Berman, the current president of the MLA, together with members of the Executive Council, likewise seeks increased public visibility in the media and at conferences around the country. Needless to say, such changes don’t happen overnight.
    With regard to Mr. Casey’s point 5, I would say that any graduate student may submit abstracts and panel proposals to the MLA and have the chance to be accepted, regardless of academic affiliation or rank. (This happened to me personally in 1996, the year before I even graduated.) At the same time, the MLA is a scholarly society: one of the reasons we college professors attend is in order to hear the big names in our fields of interest. Therefore we are faced with a limited number of fresh voices that can be included each time. (Personally, I put together a panel on literature and medicine composed of two graduate students and one junior faculty [who found a job in Qatar – not in Chicago!] for the Seattle MLA and I’m chairing it – as a contingent faculty member).
    Best,
    Dorothea Heitsch

    • #12 by johnacaseyjr on November 22, 2011 - 12:05 pm

      Dorothea,

      It’s good to know that there are non-tenure track members on the MLA Executive council. I stand corrected, at least in part, on point #1. However, with all due respect, you are a Senior Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and have previously held a position as Associate Professor. Do you feel that you are representative of the Community College faculty and the non-tenured members of the MLA–particularly composition and language instructors without a yearly contract?

      As for the issue of the MLA as a “scholarly society,” the organization first needs to admit its complicity in the problems of Higher Education. Until that happens, I seriously doubt that anything will change. My perspective on this issue comes to a large degree from reading the work of Bourdieu and Passeron “Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture,” particularly chapter three.

      With point #5, I have no doubt that “any graduate student” is welcomed with open arms. What about adjunct faculty? Is this junior faculty member of which you speak a short term contract employee? And why is his or her finding a job in Qatar touted as a good thing? I’m afraid I don’t follow you there. I personally do not attend conferences to hear the big names in my field. I can read their books and now (thanks largely to the internet) engage with them in the modern equivalent of letter writing (email, blogs, etc.). I go to conferences to take part in the generation and circulation of new ideas.

      Respectfully Yours,

      John Casey

  10. #13 by Emily on November 22, 2011 - 12:34 am

    This is a wonderful letter. Thanks for writing it.

  11. #14 by Matthew Josiah Miller on November 21, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    These are some great suggestions, and very well within the MLA’s reach IMHO (as you show by citing the example of NCTE/CCCC). A quick suggestion of my own: if you paste the letter into a blog post rather than making us open a Word doc, your message will go further. If that’s what you want. Anyway, thanks for this.

    Matthew Miller
    @giftsoutright

    • #15 by johnacaseyjr on November 21, 2011 - 10:42 pm

      Thanks Matthew. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m new to blogging. Learning as I go along.

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