From the Chronicle of Higher Education four years ago:

A year ago, I wrote a column called “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” advising students that grad school is a bad idea unless they have no need to earn a living for themselves or anyone else, they are rich or connected (or partnered with someone who is), or they are earning a credential for a job they already hold.

The main point of another column I wrote six years ago (“If You Must Go”) is that students considering graduate school should “do their homework.” But the problem is that there is still almost no way—apart from the rumor mill to which they do not really have access—for students to gather some of the most crucial information about graduate programs: the rate of attrition, the average amount of debt at graduation, and, most important, the placement of graduates (differentiating between adjunct, lecturer, visiting, tenure-track positions, and nonacademic positions). Programs often claim that graduates who are working as adjuncts or visiting faculty members are successfully placed in the profession.

Most departments will never willingly provide that information because it is radically against their interest to do so. I can see no way for that information to become available unless it becomes part of accreditation or rankings in publications such as U.S. News and World Report. Perhaps departments might start offering details if students started demanding it in large numbers, with support from organizations such as the American Association of University Professors. Maybe it’s possible for graduate students themselves to start gathering and reporting this information on a Web site.

Graduate school may be about the “disinterested pursuit of learning” for some privileged people. But for most of us, graduate school in the humanities is about the implicit promise of the life of a middle-class professional, about being respected, about not hating your job and wasting your life. That dream is long gone in academe for almost everyone entering it now.

If you are in one of the lucky categories that benefit from the Big Lie, you will probably continue to offer the attractions of that life to vulnerable students who are trained from birth to trust you, their teacher.

Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon “the life of the mind.” That’s why most graduate programs resist reducing the numbers of admitted students or providing them with skills and networks that could enable them to do anything but join the ever-growing ranks of impoverished, demoralized, and damaged graduate students and adjuncts for whom most of academe denies any responsibility.

Related discussion here. Read the whole thing. Do Williams professors tell their undergraduate students this harsh truth, a truth that is becoming more and more true in the social and natural sciences as well? I hope so.

But, from an institutional point of view, the more interesting case is the Masters Program in Art History. Does Williams tell students interested in the that program about “the rate of attrition, the average amount of debt at graduation, and, most important, the placement of graduates (differentiating between adjunct, lecturer, visiting, tenure-track positions, and nonacademic positions).” I doubt it. Perhaps we should crowdsource some of that data? Below the fold are the Masters in Art History graduates of 2000. Where are they now?


Bussard, Ms. Katherine
Dorin, Ms. Lisa
Gedgaudas, Ms. Alanna
Glass, Mr. Robert
Gonzales, Ms. Elyse
Greenhalgh, Mr. Adam
Greenhill, Ms. Jennifer
Hagood, Mr. John
Hamlin, Ms. Amy
Mangini, Ms. Elizabeth
Mann, Ms. Theresa
Mims, Ms. Kimberly
Napolitano, Mrs. Laura (Laura Groves)
Poska, Mrs. Olivia (Olivia Vitale)
Schuldenfrei, Ms. Robin
Steward, Ms. Catherine
Sweet, Ms. Leah

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