Dear Committee Members
By Julie Schumacher
Doubleday August 2014
From the library
Jason Fitger is an English professor at Payne University, specializing in creative writing. His department is under siege as the administration cuts funds and faculty and debris rains down on their head from the renovations to the economics offices. Fitger was once a member of the esteemed "Seminar," which seems to be an allusion to one of the prestigious MFA programs around our country. He can't seem to shake the relationships that shaped his life at that time as he still pines for the approval of their adviser and reaches out to the other students for advice, assistance, and sympathy.While Fitger's own writing career is somewhat derailed, he still can recognize a promising writer when he sees one...and when he doesn't.
The story of this professor is told through a series of letters to his fellow faculty members, to old friends and lovers, and to the committees of the graduate programs, writing fellowships, and internships that his students hope to gain. Dear Committee Members is a book that will make you laugh in recognition while also sparking a deeper look at our current higher education practices.
The epistolary novel is not for every reader and certainly not for every writer. The difficulty lies in bringing a character to life solely through their correspondence. For Professor Fitger, who has recently been burned from a very unfortunate reply-all situation, hand-written letters are an important means of expression. He is sarcastic and snide as he criticizes the lack of support from the university for the professors and students, but willing to take responsibility for his own failings. Most of all, his blunt honesty in the recommendations that he writes for his students shows his commitment to their education and to their futures. Fitger sees no problem in stating that a student did poorly in his class or that another deserves better than the job she is trying to nab. But he also writes to the mental health services on campus on the behalf of a student and tirelessly tries to find funding for a writer he believes can make it big.
Julie Schumacher has created a true curmudgeon of a character. But he is grumpy because he cares - because he has witnessed too many writers who didn't get the book deal, too many professors fight to teach the classes that matter, and too many students in his department take terrible jobs in unrelated fields. This is the perfect book for anyone who has had a teacher who opened their eyes or the professors who are doing the world-changing every day in our colleges and universities.