Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

What a fun read! Just what I like. It's short, it's funny, and it's making fun of academia. You don't have to be looking for that last one to enjoy this book, but it does help. I grew up in the academic world (my father is a college professor, my first job was as his research assistant, and I later worked in the campus bookstore, even though that is not the college I attended.) And it is easily the most bizarre and mess-ed up work environment I've ever run across. While tenure can certainly be a good thing, it also allows for horrible co-workers to never be fired. (Heck, even in areas without tenure, like the campus bookstore, it permeates as they think they can't fire incompetent employees.)

Jay is a professor in the English Department of Payne University, and he is constantly being asked to write letters of recommendation. the LORs range from recommending students for summer writing workshops and internships, recommending graduates for jobs, and recommending peers for positions on campus and beyond. The entire book consists of nothing but these LORs. In them, Jay often gives WAY too much personal information (particularly about his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend, who both work at the university in different capacities), occasionally write not helpful letters, refuses to figure out how to navigate online recommendation forms, and tries to stay alive in the active construction zone that is the English Department (complete with falling ceiling chunks and asbestos).

The book had me turning the pages as fast as possible, It was highly amusing and sadly, I have known people like this. It did bring me back to the campus in my mind, and made me glad I did not make academia my career (it might look tempting but it has its downsides!) Also, Jay's sheer volume of letters made me feel better about the volume of emails I have to get through on a daily basis. Read it! Enjoy!

I checked this book out of the library.


Shaina said...

I've heard so many good things about this one! As someone currently in an academic workplace, I think this would be especially amusing to me. :) You're right about how academia is tempting but has its very real downsides. What was/is your father's field of study?

Thanks for the review!

Carin Siegfried said...

Shaina, my father is an Econ professor. Which made the book even funnier for me, as the Econ department is being moved into the English department's building, which is the cause of all the construction. The English dept. has been defunded but the econ department brings in big bucks so they're getting very fancy digs. I'm lucky that I went to a liberal arts college which still respects English departments!

Cleopatra Loves Books said...

My brother works at a University and the stories he tells well.... this sounds like a great read especially for those who have links to that world.


Booksnyc said...

Thanks for highlighting this one - I hadn't heard of it but it sounds great!