Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts




Creative Writing (MFA)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Matthew Gavin Frank


Essays and fictions concerning syntactical, physical, and metaphysical endings.

Access Type

NMU Users Only

Justification for Restricting Access

The MFA students of Creative Writing at Northern Michigan University are requesting that Northern Michigan University Graduate Studies and Research revise their embargo procedure to accommodate one of the two following conditions: (1) that electronic embargo protections is extended to no less than the United States Copyright law of 1976’s protective standard which gives restrictive access to creative works of no less than 70 years after death of author or (2) to provide an option to limit creative theses availability to print-only accessibility through the university library or other academic repository. We believe an embargo meeting the expectation of either above options must be considered because of the following reasons: 1. Universal ETD (Electronic Theses and Dissertations) access reduces publication possibility with agents and editors. Some agents and editors consider freely available ETDs previously published works, despite the university’s claim that ETDs are not a “first publication.” 63% of surveyed agents, and editors of publishing houses consider readily available ETDs unpublishable, even if they are severely revised. 2. Universal ETD access shrinks publication opportunities. Nationally recognized institutions acknowledge ETD distribution as first and previous publication. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in their “Policy on Electronic Thesis and Dissertation” states universal dissemination of ETDs “markedly reduces student’s publication opportunities”. 3. Universal ETD access may reduce future earning potential by limiting authorial control. One study of BGSU writing graduate students across 38 years indicated 64% of students published their first books after more than five years and 43% published after ten years. Therefore, to protect our future economic gains, and based on data stating publication of works often takes more than five years, embargo restrictions should be far more severe than they currently stand. 4. Universal ETD access does not provide protection from Large Language Model (LLM) scraping and exposes authors to copyright infringement. Currently, there is no legal standard which protects texts readily available on the internet, copyright protected or otherwise, from LLM integration. ETDs expose authors’ works unwillingly to LLM training data sets. 5. Universal ETD access without indemnity protections exposes authors to defamation claims. The thesis submission agreement of NMU states “I warrant that the posting of the work does not infringe any copyright, nor violate any proprietary rights, nor contain any libelous matter, nor invade the privacy of any person or third party, nor otherwise violate repository policies” (emphasis ours). However, what an author deems non-libelous does not determine whether or not the material is legally non-libelous. This clause presents an arbitrary, restrictive, and unnecessary legal exposure for the author. Authors who publish with journals, presses, or other publications, sign contractual agreements which allow for the exercising of their right to induce or ignore indemnity clauses. In these cases, authors often have the right to waive protections when giving rights to publish their work. However, ETDs do not afford the author the same opportunity to waive legal protections because their publication is mandatory. ETD as a mandatory publication removes a student’s right of publication refusal, and therefore, the right to protect oneself from defamation lawsuits. 6. The process under which embargo status is awarded violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Access via embargo is determined through a process which is secretive and controlled by a single person, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. This process’s lack of transparency does not comply with Title VI, which states “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Academic processes are required to be inclusive and participatory, and most importantly, transparent. All federally funded university activities are therefore, compulsorily available for public access. The current process with which embargo award is determined does not afford protection from discrimination because the process in which the Dean determines embargo restrictions has not demonstrated that it does so based on anti-discriminatory practices. We believe these seven grievances sufficiently justify our request to have the embargo process amended. In doing so, NMU’s embargo process would align more closely with several other institutions that have addressed similar concerns regarding ETD access such as the University of Iowa, University of Wyoming, and North Carolina University. Because there is sufficient evidence that ETD policies protecting artist control of their work exist in other MFA programs, and because the current embargo policy of NMU does not address the listed grievances above, that NMU’s MFA students request that MFA Creative Writing thesis access be (1) universally restricted to no less than the legally accepted limit placed on creative works per the Copyright Act of 1976 of 70 years after the death of the author, or (2) thesis submission limited to print-only access within university libraries, reserves, or archives.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 04, 2029