UPDATE: Please take some time to read the comments section. The Masters Review is somewhat ashamed to report this was an April Fool’s joke taken seriously by our editorial team. Perhaps what’s more shameful is that Poets & Writers propagates a survey that really doesn’t hold much empirical validity. Our editorial team apologizes for not properly fact-checking this data. We didn’t read this with satire in mind. Thank you, commenter, B, for pointing this one out to us.
Best American Poetry announced yesterday that it received news from writing-resource stalwart Poets & Writers, indicating the organization will not release any more MFA rankings as it has done in previous years. Senior director of Poets & Writers Jason Terry said, “… may have influenced MFA program applicants to spend money on applying for programs for which they were ill-suited.” It’s an interesting choice, marked by a long history of disapproval from universities. An article in the The New Yorker in 2011 highlighted distaste for the rankings from faculty members via an open letter to Poets & Writers criticizing their methods and how the rankings influenced applicants.
Herein lies the subtext of the decision not to release additional rankings, which has been very popular publicly, especially by new applicants who use the list to choose schools. According to the article in Best American Poetry — this writer could not find a press release or other news outlet to confirm — the International Association of Survey Research Scientists conducted an audit on this ranking to investigate the methods used to conduct and release the list of schools. It is common knowledge that Poets & Writers uses an open survey or click-on web survey to acquire the material used to assign rank, which Raj Singh, a senior analyst in charge of examining the data states, “These pseudo-polls all suffer from the same problem: the individuals choose themselves to take part…” Thus, the real issue here is a lack of empirical data to define the ranks, and subsequently, Poets & Writers’ extreme popularity. (The list comprises a bulk of the magazine’s fall MFA issue and carries a great deal of influence.)
The outcome seems to be a benefit to all: no loosely built rankings to influence student decisions, and a happier crop of university professors who teach in these programs. However, had it not been for the audit would the magazine have ever dropped such a popular element to its fall issue and website? If the result is a positive one, the why becomes less important, but this writer wonders.
UPDATE: Please take some time to read the comments section. The Masters Review is somewhat ashamed to report this was an April Fool’s joke taken seriously by our editorial team. Perhaps what’s more shameful is that Poets & Writers propagates a survey that really doesn’t hold any empirical validity. Our editorial team apologizes for not properly fact-checking this data. We didn’t read this with satire in mind.
Unfortunately, the Best American Poetry article was an April Fool’s joke. Poets & Writers should be ashamed of its intellectually shoddy survey, but doesn’t seem to be.
Well we certainly were fooled! It’s a shame, isn’t it? This came off with such validity — perhaps because we wanted it to be true. Apologies to our readers though, this should have been properly fact-checked. Thank you for the comment, B!