Recently, I received one of what will be dozens of emails from program coordinators asking me to share information about their super stellar one-of-a-kind MFA programs with current BA students. This year, I decided to write them back, and ask them to answer a few questions before I hit that “forward” button. These are questions that many MFA students want to ask, are likely afraid to ask, didn’t think to ask, wish they had asked, and questions that program administrators can reflect on and respond to, preferably on their program’s website, to offer students a comprehensive gaze into their program. These questions are not a call-out, they are not shaming any program. They are questions from one administrator (and several generous collaborators!) to another.
Please do share widely with MFA program directors. And directors: please avoid “yes” or “no” when responding to these questions. Take time to actually engage with the questions. The health of your program truly depends on your ability to reflect and engage with these questions.
(If you have additional questions, please post them in the “Comments” section and I’ll add them to the list!)
Do you have tenure-track POC faculty in the MFA program?
Do you have tenure-track LGBTQIA faculty in the MFA program?
What is the campus climate in regards to transgender students?
What is the campus climate in regards to students of color?
Are workshops productive, safe spaces for POC students? Are faculty well-read in POC literature and able to work with students who are writing from different worldviews? Do MFA reading lists/syllabi and featured readings include POC and LGBTQIA+ writers?
Are workshops productive, safe spaces for students who are LBTQIA? Are faculty well-read in LGBTQIA literature and able to work with students who are working through queer lenses?
What is the mediation/conflict resolution process when a student experiences discrimination and biases, from an advisor, peer or professor?
How are flexibility/extensions decided upon if a student suddenly faces financial hardship, family crisis or life tragedy? How is the student supported to navigate these circumstances while not having to quit school/ be pushed out?
What kinds of accommodations do you offer for students who are differently abled, and how accepting are the program’s faculty and staff about implementing these accommodations? Do faculty receive annual ADA training?
How does the college support unauthorized immigrants? How does the college support refugee populations?”
Do you admit and support middle-aged and senior students? What kind of support systems do you and/or your university have in place for single parents and/or working parents?
Does *every* TAship come with tuition remission and insurance benefits? Does the health insurance include Rx for chronic illness? And dental? What mental health services are covered under the health insurance, and what additional mental health services are offered on campus?
Is there attention to and support for addiction resistance/recovery efforts on campus? What’s the climate like…–frank discussion of problems or denial?
Is the schedule flexible enough that individuals who work have class times to choose from that meet their needs?