Dear Committee Members is a 2014 Epistolary Novel by Julie Schumacher, told entirely through letters of recommendation written by beleaguered professor Jason T. Fitger of the Departments of Creative Writing and English at the unfortunately and aptly named Payne University somewhere in the Midwest. The novel is a Take That! to the world of the academy, particularly in the humanities and liberal arts, and covers such ground as department infighting, building construction, clueless students, administrative favoritism, and the particularly dry and formulaic genre of writing that is the letter of recommendation.
This work provides examples of:
- Berserk Button:
- Do not ask Fitger to fill out an online recommendation form.
- Fitger's fourth novel, Transfer of Affection, is one of these for his ex-wife Janet.
- Grammar Nazi: Fitger, Up to Eleven. He uses letters of recommendation as a platform to correct the grammar of the business names and hiring managers.
- Bittersweet Ending: Fitger begins to learn a little humility and self-reflection and starts to repair his personal relationships, but his favorite student, for whom he cared deeply, is dead, and Payne is as underfunded and dysfunctional as ever.
- Jerk Ass With A Heart Of Gold: Fitger. He is egotistical, self-absorbed, and condescending to almost everyone around him, but he also genuinely cares for the well-being of his students and wants the best for them (most of them, anyway).
- The Narcissist: Even Fitger readily acknowledges the size of his own ego.
- The Unfavorite: Vivian Zelles, to Fitger. He begrudgingly acknowledges that she is talented and very ambitious, but dislikes her personally and resents her success, especially when she outshines his favorite student, Darren Browles.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Fitger is a serial committer of these acts, however well-intentioned (or not) he may be.
- His interference in Carol's job search, especially after promising to write her a letter of recommendation should she need one, comes off as a deliberate sabotage and borderline stalkerish, and almost permanently ends their just-beginning-to-be-repaired professional relationship
- He sends out portions of Darren Browles's novel without Browles's permission, leading directly to Fitger's former mentor stealing Browles's work and possibly contributing to Browles's eventual suicide.