Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is everyone's problem with Abramson Leslie Consulting (ALC)?

Having thrown myself, as I do, into the blogosphere (oh how I detest that word), I have found myself caught up in the trending topics of that world, or at least, as the pertain to blogs that deal in any way with poetry, writing, MFA programs, or literature.

And the current shit storm being stirred about seems to be directed toward Abramson Leslie Consulting (ALC) a consultation firm for MFA applicants. Or, more specifically, the blog entry announcing the birth of this never-before-seen venture.

The comments, which range from supportive to what can best be described as disgusted, are really pretty tame if you've ever looked through comments made by upset readers anywhere else on the web. But the general tenacity of what are often (presumably) college educated, or at least fairly well-read, writers is kind of astonishing.

And if you look through some of the comments on other people's blogs, it only gets worse.

I know, from the comments, that I am not alone in being completely dumbfounded about what the big deal is. How can a person find reviewing an application as being a scam, but then also see the MFA program itself as some sort of virtuous and sacrosanct institution?

You guys realize that for many people out there, those of us who go to school for art are the ones foolishly throwing our money away, right? And who can blame them? How many of the truly great writers didn't go to college at all? What exactly does a college offer you that you shouldn't be able to achieve yourself for a fraction of the price?

And isn't there some beauty in what it is we have? Is if you feel as if there is something that you need, and there is a business that offers a service purporting to supply that, then what's the problem? Conversely, if you think the business is erroneous, nobody expects you to pay for it anyway.

I guess I'm missing the point that someone is trying to make by raging in the sidelines about the ethics or honor of MFA programs, of all things. The ALC, and MFA programs in general, are not 'targeting' those mentally incapable of making rational decisions. To the contrary, they are aimed at adults who have had considerably more education than the average person.

They aren't taking advantage of minors or those in their down and out, because those hoping to go to graduate school either have enough money to comfortably do so, or are deciding that they will sacrifice the financial security of say, accounting or engineering, for what it is they love to do.

And they aren't tricking anyone. I would be shocked to find out that someone who has read ALC's FAQ would be surprised at what they are offered when they pay for the service. This is a FAQ, people. It's not like reading the convoluted verbiage of a legal contract (although I'm sure something like it exists somewhere along the line, since Americans are like bloodhounds when it comes to lawsuits).

Either you want the service, or you don't. What exactly is the problem?


  1. I think people might see a conflict of interest between Seth as someone who ranks MFA programs (by funding, not by quality or faculty or anything like that) thereby making would-be-MFA students anxious, and then profiting from that anxiety by offering them a service many of them probably don't need. (I mean, Seth's credentials are that he went to Iowa - but as far as I know, he's never been on an MFA admissions committee or anything. Also, my argument against it would be - the MFA program you are "supposed" to be with will like your work without the consulting polish. I mean, they'll recognize something they like in you, you'll recognize something you like in them. To use a dating analogy.)
    So that's why people are upset. Not me, personally, but I can see why some people might view it as a conflict.

  2. Thanks for the reply, Supervillainess.

    These are good reasons not to like the business, and I would point out that personally, I would never pay for Seth's service myself.

    But I get the feeling that people are more upset with the idea of the business itself than his credentials or intentions. That were Seth to announce that he was closing his blog down, and had been validated in some way (as pertains to his ability to judge an MFA application) that there would still be many people who are very upset.

    What do you think?