The Collapse of English Lit at Columbia

Scenes from the higher education apocalypse: I don’t know whether Columbia University’s graduate program in English literature is as premier in the field as it was back in the glory days of Lionel Trilling, but yesterday the Chronicle of Higher Education reported this:

Columbia Had Little Success Placing English Ph.Ds on Tenure Track. “Alarm” Followed, and the University Responded

The story is unfortunately behind the Chronicle‘s paywall, but when you get into the story it turns out the headline is misleading: It should read “No Success” rather than “Little Success,” because the number of Columbia English Ph.Ds placed in tenure-tracked jobs this year was Zero.

The news was grim. Columbia University’s English department had failed to place a single current Ph.D. candidate into a tenure-track job this year. And 19 new doctoral students had accepted admission into the program, raising questions about why the cohort is so large when the job prospects aren’t plentiful. This had “given rise to some alarm,” concerned graduate students wrote in an April 30 letter to department leadership.

Not to worry. Columbia is on it!

Once the letter was sent in early May, the department acted immediately, Stewart said. A faculty meeting was held, then a town-hall meeting with the graduate students where they went through all of the concerns,

A faculty meeting! And a town hall meeting! That’s some serious action, I’ll tell you.

Maybe my favorite part of this story is this:

Tiana Reid, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in English who signed the letter, said in an email that she’s “not particularly worried about my future place in the academy as I have never expected the university offer any kind of refuge or even knowledge. Sure I hope I get some kind of a job,” she said, “but I say that with the opinion that all work under capitalism sucks.”

Unlike the joyful work in, what—Cuban sugar cane fields?

But perhaps this should all be filed in the Good News department, given the complete rot of most English literature programs these days. By the way, guess who studied English at Columbia before dropping out to become a journalist? The racist New York Times‘ executive editor Dean Baquet.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.