I agree with what Paula Krebs says here. It has certainly become impossible to justify the expense of holding first round interviews at MLA, especially given the likelihood of travel disruptions due to weather, which add an entirely new layer of stress to the process.
At bottom, this argument is about cost-savings, and decisions made with that rationale should always come with reflection. The MLA has provided job seekers with many on-site resources that will not be available with remote interviewing. While many interviewees probably never took advantage of them, they were there, and the possibility for solidarity with other job seekers is also gone when everyone is interviewing over the internet in their room or office. Again, maybe that solidarity was always an illusion, but part of me feels like this shift is another victory for neoliberal thinking. What are the major arguments in its favor? Cost-savings, convenience, and flexibility.
One final point: the other thing that MLA provided was uniformity to the process of the job search. Search committees generally followed the same timeline, asked for the same materials, and went through the same stages in the process of evaluating candidates. That uniformity is likely gone, so future job seekers can anticipate a lot more variation from one search to another. When I was on the job market 10 years ago, the standard application deadline was Nov. 1. Since the MLA’s Job Information List opened around Sept. 10, job seekers could plan to have about two months to complete their applications. This year, many searches in my discipline had deadlines in September, even though their job announcements were not widely advertised until the JIL opened. This shortened application period may have unanticipated consequences, and, specifically, it may work against most institutions’ stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in job hiring.