In the Twittersphere today (blogosphere also, I'm sure, but I didn't have time to follow it), much kerfuffle over Seth Abramson's announcement that he's starting a consulting firm to advise would-be applicants of creative writing MFA and PhD programs. Steve Fellner wrote a post decrying this as the "most unethical entity" in poetry; he later removed the post for "legal reasons." Lots of people seem excited, in a "Yay, awesome!" way about this. As far as I can tell, this is at least partly because people just don't like Seth Abramson, or find him "insufferable" to put a finer point on it, and enjoyed seeing him raked over the coals.
However you feel about SA and how cool he would or would not be to get a beer with, I just don't see how this can be called unethical. It's no more unethical than any consulting service whereby people offer expertise and advice for money. In other words, if it's unethical, so is SAT tutoring. So is resume coaching. Doesn't Steve Schroeder offer resume services for a fee? Is that unethical?
My understanding is that SA was previously providing similar services for free via email. He's a lawyer. That means his time is quite literally money. He realized he could bill for those hours. Guess what, that's how businesses are born. Every business is based on the premise that people will pay for what they want and/or need. Sure, most of the information he has is readily available to those who want to do the research and/or networking. But people are lazy and their time is worth something too.
When I was applying to grad school, I certainly would have paid for, if not a consultant, a book that told me what the top programs were, how much funding they offered, how many students they admitted and so forth. Nothing like that existed at the time. I relied on an outdated US News report and the advice of my poetry teacher (it was part of her job to advise me). The one place she suggested that wasn't already on my list was Emerson, both the best suggestion and the worst suggestion: best because it's the only place I got in (though I was later accepted off a wait list), worst because, as a program, it kind of sucked. I'm doing OK, but I could have been better informed. I'm sure there are people way more clueless than I was.
Is this a sign that creative writing has become an industry? Yes. As such, it is kind of "icky"? Yes. But unethical? No.
For the record, I don't have a problem with the "entity" being questioned or criticized. It's an open question whether or not such services should exist, are valuable, etc. Same goes for the MFA "machine" as a whole. I just think terms like "unethical" and "corrupt" don't apply here.