After a couple of weeks of reading applications and conducting 27 interviews, I've made my picks for who will join the WILL (Women in Learning and Leadership) program in the fall. Sending out acceptance letters was easy -- congratulations, get registered, look for first meeting in Sept, contact me if you have questions, etc. etc.
The time-consuming and rather annoying task, however, has become writing the rejection letters for those who will not be joining us. I am only the incoming director, you see. I don't officially take over until Sept (or July... no one is quite sure) and I need to stay in the good graces of the outgoing director (who is stepping up to be Associate Dean of my college and someone I will need to work closely with on some things) so I have to follow her wishes on a few matters dealing with the administration of WILL at this moment. And she has made it very clear -- as has the director of the WGST program -- that I need to tailor rejection letters to the individual student. I'm supposed to be encouraging and positive.
But see, I'm not so good at that and I really don't see the point. The great bulk of people that I'm rejecting are people who don't make the GPA cut off. Honestly, they never should have applied and they should have known this since the 3.0 requirement is clearly stated on the application. "I'm sorry, we are unable to accept you because you do not meet the clearly stated and long established criteria of the program. If you are able to pull your grades up, we'll be happy to consider your application next year." Is that encouraging?
The other people are folks who had nothing to offer and little to say... people who could not say why they wanted to be in the program, what issues they are interested in, etc. etc. So how do I explain this while being encouraging? "I'm sorry we are unable to offer you a place in the program and we wish you the best of luck in finding something that excites you enough that you can say more than three words about it."
I'm trying very hard to not think that I am jumping through these hoops just because this is part of a Women and Gender Studies program. I reject tea party feminism where being nice to women takes precedence over doing good work and producing meaningful results. Rejection happens and we all need to learn to deal with it and not expect to be coddled through it. There is good reason why the program has a GPA requirement -- it can be intense and it is not for struggling students who need to put academics first. And if you are not invested in the program, the students who are will come to resent you for not doing your part and that will distract us all from doing what we need to do. So..."Thank you for applying, but we are unable to offer you a space in the program." Now, go study.
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