Dear Committee Members is a quick and easy read, but a great book. It is organized a a series of emails, letters and online forms from an English professor at the fictional “Payne University”.
The collection of writings show his inner thoughts, his disappointment in both his career and students, the decline of English departments at major universities, and how difficult it is for modern writers to make a career out of writing books.
The writings are mainly emails between the professor and his ex-wives, potential employers or publishers for his students, or the “committee members” from which the title is derived.
The letters show his gradual wearing down and disappointment with the world as other disciplines, such as Economics and Computer Science, get the lions share of funding and his beloved English department is left in the dust. They also show how self-centered and egotistical he is; he can’t seem to write a single reference letter without mainly talking about his own life.
The book also indirectly shows English becoming a backwater of academic thought. In the novel, the English department struggles to recruit good students, has to work out of a building under construction, and no students only majoring in English get good jobs.
Although the book mainly critiques the humanities as a whole (in my opinion), it also heavily critiques the type of student who gets involved with studying English as a major. Read the book to see what you think about that!
I certainly thought that this book was funny. The emails, especially the ones to ex-wives or mistresses, reek of desperation and do a great job of showing his decline as both an academic and person in general. They were very funny.
Additionally, the interactions alluded to in most of the letters in the book are very funny. His students are terrible writers and mainly focus on writing horror short stories (that aren’t very good). Similarly, the professor’s colleagues seem to either hate or ignore him; he’s a shadow of his former self, but all the more egotistical.
I think that Dear Committee Members does a great job of pointing out the flaws in modern academia. Too many university professors are there because of their own egos, not because they want to teach. Instead of focusing on making sure their students are the best that they can be, they instead mainly care about their own research and careers.
Furthermore, they are unable able to adapt, mainly because of their own egos. The professor in the book constantly complains about how the economics and computer science departments get far more funding than his own. Yet he doesn’t seem to realize the reason behind that; they get more funding because there is more of a payoff for them.
Their students go on to have great careers, whereas his are mediocre writers at best and can’t seem to even find short-term employment. I thought that point was particularly insightful, and was delivered in a funny way throughout the book.
Dear Committee Members is a book that you should definitely read. It is interesting, funny, and insightful. While it critiques many things about modern universities, such as their highly political and egotistical professors, it does so in a funny way that is easy to read. You should buy and read it immediately if you have any interest at all in the big problems for modern American universities.
By: Gen Z Conservative