Occupy MLA

The latest spinoff of the protest movement focuses on the language and literature job market with demand of "Tenure Track Now."

November 14, 2011

Will there be a tent city at the Modern Language Association's annual meeting in Seattle in January? Will consensus decision-making (complete with hand signals) replace Robert's Rules of Order at the MLA's Delegate Assembly? Are tenured faculty members -- even self-described "tenured radicals" -- actually 1 percenters?

To answer those questions, you may need to monitor the newest Occupy movement -- currently in virtual form -- at the Twitter feed of OccupyMLA.

The organizers of the site are anonymous. Some of the likely suspects among the early followers are denying knowledge of who created the movement. But its goals and outlook are fairly straightforward: "Take hold of your alt-ac job advice & place it squarely in your variorum. TENURE TRACK NOW."

The early tweets included the following:

  • We are the text. We are the text. @mlaconvention is the endnotes!
  • Don't have any interviews at the MLA Convention in Seattle? Join us.
  • Manuscript rejected by outdated academic press? Join us.
  • Your thoughts are more erudite than the venti latte you just served! Join us!
  • You did not learn Middle English so you could teach freshman comp! Join us!
  • Tired of making syllabi for courses you'll never teach for jobs you lose to some assoc. prof. from an R1 Uni? Join us!
  • In our list of demands, only the Oxford comma divides us!

The organizers of OccupyMLA recently tweeted a promise to soon reveal plans for a "shadowMLA," but those details have yet to be posted -- and the organizers have not responded to tweeted requests for an interview.

The real MLA is responding to OccupyMLA much more graciously than finance executives have treated Occupy Wall Street. Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA, has tweeted amiably about the new movement. Via e-mail, she said that she found the commentary coming from Occupy MLA to be "witty and literate" while also pointing "to serious issues such as employment, exclusionary practices in the academy, and so on."

Feal added that she saw the OccupyMLA fitting in with other Occupy movements and their focus on "economic and social issues [that] are on the minds of many people." She said that the MLA's Executive Council is about to release a new statement on educational debt, and that these economic and educational issues will be discussed in Seattle.


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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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