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ETD Policies that do more harm than good; also, new feeds for FRL

I’m hustling off the grid for the rest of today to work on my review of Everything is Miscellaneous–quick preview: miscell-delicious!– but wanted to note an important warning to MFA in Writing students in a post at Politics, Technology, and Language.

If you have even the slightest urge to publish through traditional channels–an essay in a traditional literary journal, or even, God willing, a book–pick your MFA program carefully, or you could end up in a program where your cherished manuscript will be placed on the open Web when you graduate, rendering it unpublishable. Note also that you may think you aren’t going to write for publication–but the MFA process can steer you in ways you never imagined.

Before you commit to an MFA, find out whether the university requires the electronic deposit of theses and dissertations, known as ETDs. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing–it can be a very good thing for the “last copy” of your thesis to be in digital form, particularly if it’s backed up in various places–but the next questions are key:

  1. Does the university force all ETDs onto the open Web, or may the student choose how and when his or her thesis is published?
  2. If the default action is to publish on the open Web, how easy is it to exercise exceptions? Can the student choose, or is it up to the student’s department or another agency?
  3. How long are the exceptions (sometimes called embargoes)? (One ETD policy I know of has a three-month “embargo”–a wee drap of time in the traditional-publishing universe.)
  4. Who decides the ETD policy, and how sympathetic is this group to departments still publishing in traditional models?
  5. If the university doesn’t have an ETD program or policy, is one imminent?

PTL captured the essence of this problem; I hope sometime soon to write about its origins, and about its implications for humanities departments. (The AWP has taken a firm stand against ETD excesses.) As usual, it all boils down to the human comedy, with all the expected players and motivations. Since last winter I had been heavily involved in researching ETD policies, but I was unable to write about this topic until now because I was engaged in proposing changes to a campus-wide policy. After reading PTL’s post, I remembered, hey, I don’t work there any more!

As a reminder, here are the new feeds: [comments]

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