Fuck U

Ufuckery* is a term that will now refer to egregious acts of rudeness or cruelty inflicted upon people by the university system.

A loyal reader, who is applying to Departments of English at a good sampling of universities, recently sent me a flustered complaint. This applicant’s materials include a fantastic transcript with a healthy share of graduate level course-work — an almost perfect 4.0 average in lit courses –, fantastic letters of recommendation, verbal GRE scores in the 98th percentile, a perfect analytic score on the GRE, and a sophisticated writing sample. Also, the applicant described one of the most innovative projects I’ve ever seen. The applicant, did not, however, take the GRE Subject Exam in English Literature in time, which effectively disqualifies him from consideration by most American universities. Fair enough.

The rejection letters that came were almost all identical. They were polite, measured, and hopeful about the applicant’s chances elsewhere or the following year with high scores on the wanted exam. Still, I warned the applicant to watch out for unique treachery from Berkeley. Here is their letter.

Dear [redacted],

I regret to inform you that you have not been accepted for graduate study in English at Berkeley.

All of the material submitted with your application has been reviewed by our department admissions committee, which has not recommended you for admission to the Ph.D. program.

I am sorry that we do not have a place for you, and I hope that you will be able to make other arrangements to pursue your academic goals.

[photocopied scrawl]
Chair, Graduate English

This letter treats the reader like a moron who is not intelligent enough to understand that Berkeley has said NO.

The following is the response I recommend:

Dear WhoreMaternalPhallus,


I got in? Your use of the English language was almost a little too subtle for me! I can’t wait to take your course on “Tact, Politesse & Basic Manners From the Eighteenth Century to the Present,” with readings from the works of Jane Austen, Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure and Emily Post.

Sincerely Magnificently, and looking forward to spending many office hours with you,
a bastard

Seriously, though, it’s probably difficult to write an acceptable rejection letter. This one utilizes a no-frills repetitive approach that underscores the pure sense of privilege this department enjoys. Sadly, it isn’t the most egregious thing I’ve seen. I warned the applicant that when I applied to grad school, though I was made offers by several top-tier schools, Berkeley didn’t even bother to send me a rejection letter. I had to call them and ask after my application’s status. A secretary told me, “well, if you haven’t heard from us already, of course we rejected you.” A friend of mine in the Anthropology Department here applied to Poli Sci at Berkeley. Their rejection consisted of a mass email that included all the rejectees names and email addresses in the copy line. They didn’t even bother to blind-copy it.

Other examples of ufuckery sent in by readers include:

  • retroactive tuition for time withdrawn from school charged to graduate students who have left university for a quarter or more, upon the student’s return. As this has been explained to the student by both a Dean and a Professor, the purpose of the policy is two-fold. One, it keeps ’38 year olds who don’t know what they’re doing in life’ from coming back and wasting everyone’s time. It also prevents the university from being cheated by students who withdraw, write their dissertations, and then re-enroll with dissertation in hand. Lesson? Don’t grow old or pregnant!
  • rejection letters for academic positions that tell you that you didn’t get the job, “but we are pleased to announce that we have hired ‘so & so’ for the position.” Does anyone need to be told in their rejection who exactly was offered the job? Way to rub it in!
  • I once witnessed a dean warn a suicidal student that expulsion would occur if an “attempt” were made. Upon asking the dean what that was all about, he explained to me that suicidal students “cost the university a lot of money.”

I would like to add to this list, so please send me your stories.

*I credit loyal reader, Luches, for coining this phrase. The term is now available on http://www.urbandictionary.com so it is officially part of the lexicon. Use it without reserve.


4 Responses to “Fuck U”

  1. Luches Says:

    #1. Once a colleague who had been fired by a Dean’s fiat wrote the Dean to ask for the rationale. The letter he sent in response, *which I saw*, said: “The University of Redacted has no responsibility to explain itself to its employees.”2. A colleague who was fired at tenure had the unfortunate experience of being leaked to by his or her “friends” about who said what at the meeting. Apparently, someone said about my friend, “s/he’s good, but s/he’s not brilliant.” My friend has gone on to do major things. Later I asked him or her, do you ever think of that? S/he said, “Only every day.”That kind of ufuckery is especially brutal because it’s exercised in the name of intimacy, insiderness, loyalty, and friendship.

  2. Zed Says:

    Example of the RU Screw: When my brother applied for graduate school, he wondered why it was taking so long for his first-choice school to get back to him. Finally he called, and they asked why an anthropologist was trying to get into a physics program. Rutgers had sent off the transcript for a different Da/vid Zim/merman. Adding insult to injury, he got accepted by the first-choice school, but so late in the process that they couldn’t offer him financial aid. He ended up at his second or third choice. That is classic Ufuckery.

  3. sareeta Says:

    #1. After learning she would not receive her doctoral degree because of having failed to go online and re-check a box that had been un-checked by a zealous bureaucrat in her absence, a highly successful and motivated scholar who has since gone on to achieve great things was told by the so-called Dean of Students, really Dean of the Bottom Line, of a very prestigious East Coast University that she would have to pay another semester of tuition. When asked how she might go about financing these unexpected costs, Dean Bottom Line *smirked*, loudly scoffing into the telephone, “you expect *me* to tell *you* how to pay your tuition, Miss?” He insisted on calling said highly creative and brilliant individual who had recently successfully defended her dissertation at the best school in the country for her discipline ‘Miss’. Not Dr. (of course), not even ‘Ms.’, but ‘Miss.’#2. After interviewing at a well-known institution, giving a job talk, and surviving extensive and harrowing rounds of phone and personal interviews, a candidate for a tenure track university position waited…and waited. Finally, he received a *form* email notifying him, along with the other *4* candidates on the short list who were not chosen, that they had decided to go with someone else. He knew there were 5 other losers because the department failed to blind cc everybody. The letter, even at this late stage in the game, began: ‘Dear Candidate’.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    1. when i applied to do a PhD in the humanities to graduate schools, the university of North of the Border responded with a hand-written pseudo-rejection letter, saying that my grades were really not what they were looking for, since I got a C in neuroscience (!?), but said that “since I was able to rebound from that, that if i would be willing to pay my way through, they would be happy to take me.”the P.S. said “your language skills probably aren’t good enough anyway” followed by a smiley face.2. in graduate school a professor in my department waited until my advisor went out of town to bury my application for a position for a year of research abroad and put her favorite ‘other’ gay guy in my place who worshipped her at her feet in office hours…she forwarded the applications before anyone could do anything. she was deeply miffed that i didn’t take her course.3. I was the scapegoat of the capricious and pathological behavior of senior colleagues. I was heavily recruted for this (my first job) and given unfair (illegal) preference over other candidates, and then after moving to the school and new area, within weeks of being on campus, the redaction of my pink slip slowly had been initiated. Subsequently, I found that they just needed to hold the line for someone else who had not yet finished the PhD and I was a convenient bookmark. That person is now associate professor in that university of Urbania. In retrospect I suspect that this favor of voting me out was what got one professor the needed vote for a peaceful retirement package and another the needed vote to prop him up to Professor….

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