MFA students at the University of Iowa have been upset about a requirement that would make their theses available as open access documents either immediately or in two years (if they ask for an extension). A number of student blog postings have protested this requirement. Part of the problem is that MFA theses can be creative works (or other types of works, such as nonfiction works) that may have commercial potential. Peter Suber has analyzed the situation in his "Controversy over OA for Fine Arts Theses and Dissertations" posting.
The Interim Provost, Lola Lopes, has now issued a statement about the conflict.
Here's an excerpt from that statement:
For some time now our library, like most major academic research libraries, has been exploring ways to make its collections more accessible by digitizing some materials. As part of that process, there has been discussion about the possibility of making graduate student dissertations and theses available in electronic format. But any such process must be preceded by developing policies and procedures that allow authors to decide whether and when to allow distribution.
On Monday, March 17, I will begin pulling together a working group with representatives from the Graduate College, University Libraries, our several writing programs, and all other constituencies who wish to be part of the process. Under the leadership of Carl Seashore in 1922, Iowa became the first university in the United States to award MFA degrees based on creative projects. Although this has been a rocky start, I like to think that Iowa will again lead the way by developing policies and procedures that safeguard intellectual property rights while preserving materials for the use of scholars in generations to come.
Read more about it at "Iowa's 'Open Access' Policy Is Nothing but a Trojan Horse"; "Students, UI Grapple over Online Publishing"; "Thesis Policy Sparks Uproar"; "U. of Iowa Writing Students Revolt Against a Plan They Say Would Give Away Their Work on the Web"; and "Writing Students Want UI Not to Give Away Their Work."