Let’s Put the MFA Students to Work (by Chris Biddle)

For those students not involved in the undergraduate writing program at Wilson, it’s sometimes easy to forget about Warren Wilson’s esteemed creative writing MFA program, that is, until Christmas break rolls around, and a chirpy and efficient email shows up in your mailbox, notifying you that a stranger will occupying your room for a month. For those who work on campus during the MFA, the invasive aspect of their arrival is ever more present. They complain about the poor food while undergrads celebrate a noticeable spike in quality and presentation.  The curried chicken has an extra spice or two. There’s guacamole at the fixins’ bar. Kielbasa made with Wilson pork. These are life’s little pleasures.

“All I want is salmon.  Why don’t they have salmon,” asks a befuddled MFA’er, staring at the salad bar. Her bellyache supplies the material for a lunchtime-and-then-some-worth of derogatory jokes and imitations. The jokes are of course, at her expense, but directed more broadly, at all of them, especially James Franco.  (I heard he drives an H2 from the Biltmore Hotel every day.

Maybe it’s something to do with elitism, or invasion-ism, or just an unfortunate side effect of the Warren Wilson Bubble, but if there’s one thing clear about the relationship between Wilson students and the MFA bunch, it’s that we don’t like ‘em.

Granted.  As adults ourselves, we treat them with civility, and on occasion are rewarded with a pleasant (and therefore memorable) encounter. For the most part, we give them the benefit of the doubt. As students upon our own endeavors, there’s one part of us that can relate. When they break out their iPads, scoot to Starbucks before class, or forget to leave the thank you bottle of Merlot in the fridge, it’s not that we wish they didn’t exist, it’s just that we never want to have to see them, or interact with them, or hear about them in any fashion, that’s all.

I begrudgingly bumped shoulders with the enemy this past January, as a delegate of the undergrad writing department, and a spy. What I found shook the very foundation of my Wilsondom, choked the air from my hooter, would have made Hank Hambright get down one knee and pray to Bubba for my forgiveness. Some of them aren’t that bad. They are honest, hardworking, passionate, and creative people, and though we think of them as outsiders, they still call this place home for a few months out of the year.  We just wish that they would understand just how much this place is home to the students on campus over breaks.

So what can be done to reconcile this lack of understanding? Have them tear out a particularly nasty bunch of multi-floral rose, slice up forty onions for the salad bar, scrub every toilet on a hallway only to find it covered in puke the next morning. Let’s teach the MFA students the value of work on campus, and in so doing show them the value of this place as home. Only then will Warren Wilson be a united workforce, and community.