My friend Jim Hynes, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, tipped me off yesterday that students there are up in arms about a new university policy that requires them to make their dissertations available open access–as in free–in order to graduate. We’re talking fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction here, not scholarly work. The students, understandably, are worried that this may scotch their chances of getting publishing contracts for their work.
I defend OA for electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) and even argue that universities should mandate OA for ETDs. On the other hand, my arguments focus on non-fiction works of scholarship in the sciences and humanities. I’ve never thought about OA for works of fiction and creative writing submitted for degree requirements in an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program like the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. I suspect that many universities with OA policies for ETDs haven’t either.
Barbara Fister of the Association of College & Research Libraries weighs in on what she calls the “Free Culture Clash” here. At Sivacracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan takes it further with a humdinger of a headline: “U. of Iowa Stealing Student Work and Forcing Googlization.” For some writers’ takes, see Megan Pillow’s reaction at the Huffington Post (yes, the HuffPo) and Jim’s here and here.
Where does this leave writers who can’t even give their stuff away?