Revolution Lullabye

April 6, 2009

Phelps, Turtles All the Way Down

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Turtles All the Way Down: Educating Academic Leaders.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Brown and Enos. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.

Leadership education should be an integral part of any graduate student’s program, and composition and rhetoric programs are positioned to be leaders in that movement because many of their graduates will go on to quickly assume administrative roles (WPA, writing center, WAC director.) Phelps explains that the WPA straddles the “bright line” between faculty and administration, and the way to negotiate this line is to have a positive understanding of leadership. Phelps argues for WPAs to embrace their leadership roles by recognizing power as productive, ethical, and legitimate. Power does not reside with the individual; it is a force, an action that organizations depend on for survival. Phelps advocates for practical and reflective education in leadership and explains the “administrative fellow” model she piloted at Syracuse, which drew on Lave and Wagner’s theories of situated learning to allow for legitimate peripheral practice.

Quotable Quotes

“What is needed is an ethical ideal that envisions responsible, strong leadership as a conceptual possibility, not an oxymoron.” (19)

:The authority of an administrator is not a personal attribute or possession, despite those who improperly personalize it. The administrator with integrity assimilates personal motives to the social motives of the enterprise” (25) – James Madison, for the good of the office/the institution

Notable Notes

Gertrude Himmelfarb – need to recognize the good inherent in central leadership and power; distributed, collaborative power is not always good or effective. Don’t assign gender to kinds of power

new university – professionalization, recognizing administrative work as scholarship – leads to needing more faculty as leaders

systems are leaders on top of leaders (turtles all the way down) at a variety of scales

Lave/Wagner’s theories don’t account for the necessity of continued reflection and some direct learning

three spheres of activity in professionalization – the discipline, the collegium, and the workplace – WPAs negotiate their identity in all three of these, always changing and dynamic – it is an activity system

WPAs fear power from above and their own power

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Horning, Ethics and the jWPA

Horning, Alice. “Ethics and the jWPA.” In Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics. Eds. Dew and Horning. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2007. 40-57.

Horning argues that it is unethical for untenured faculty members to serve as writing program administrators. She defends her claim by using the ethical arguments of W.D. Ross (who draws on Biblical teachings, especially from the Old Testament) and Kant. jWPAs don’t have the expertise and experience that they need to be cross-curricular, all-university faces of writing programs and to do the managerial duties (scheduling, changing curriculum, hiring, firing) that are required of a WPA. Veteran faculty and senior WPAs in the field need to look out for jWPAs – even those who want the challenge of the position – by issuing a national policy statement against it.

Quotable Quotes

“It is unethical with junior faculty without tenure to hold WPA positions.” (40).

Notable Notes

WD Ross – Deuteronomy 22:10 – it is unlawful to yoke an ass and ox together because of the discrepancy in the ability to work.

Ross’s ethics rely on the idea of DUTY: 1st is fidelty – Promise-keeping: A department makes promises to a new hire and needs to give them the space and time to concentrate on teaching and scholarship, which will be what they are evaluated for tenure on (also this focus is repeated in the AAUP Statement on Professional Ethics)

Kant – don’t use people as a means to an end

senior faculty allowing eager junior faculty to serve as WPA is wrong – such a position is harmful to health, family life, and career – it’s like allowing a kid to pig out on candy

Phelps, The WPA’s Dual Identity

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The WPA’s Dual Identity: Why It’s Hard to Have It Both Ways.” In The Promise and the Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2008. 262-265.

In this short response to a chapter of essays about the working conditions and constraints of WPAs, Phelps argues for an expanded view of WPA identity, one that does not equate security with tenure. A WPA is both an administrator and a faculty member, and tenure only matters in the second part. A WPA needs to understand both the perks and the ramifications of their dual identity, realizing that any WPA position, because it is built on a shifting foundation in these two different systems, must be flexible and always-changing. A WPA who embraces this dual identity and tries to find the positive synergy between being a faculty member and being an administrator is capable of great positive change – a risk worth taking.

Quotable Quotes

“While merging the best of both systems is precisely the feat we try to pull off as WPAs, to assume entitlement to them suggests (on the part of the WPA community) a failure to appreciate that in each system there are costs, constraints, and dangers directly correlated with their rewards and advantages.” (264).

“The primary calculus of risks and rewards in teh WPA role arises from this defining effort to merge basically incompatible rival systems and functions” (264).

Enos and Borrowman, The Promise and the Perils

Enos, Theresa and Shane Borrowman, eds. The Promise and the Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2008.

This post contains information about three different narrative essays in Section 6: Tenure, Promotion, and the WPA.

Langston, Camille. “A New WPA at a Small Private School with Large Public(ation) Expectations.” 182-190.

Langston’s story is like many other jWPA horror stories: eager to serve as WPA, she was asked in her first year to direct the program in her 2nd year. Her time, though she was supposed to focus on publication, was quickly eaten up with writing an official job description for the job (which was not recognized as a university administrative position but rather a department appointment), defending the English Department’s right to teach comp during core curriculum committee debates, and conducting a self-assessment of the program.

Peguesse, Chere L. “Fit for an Unfit Fittedness: National Writing Project Site Directors as WPA.” 190-203.

WPA positions don’t have to be internal (WPAs, WAC directors, writing center directors); Peguesse, in her personal narrative, explains how the work of a National Writing Project director is also WPA work, and like WPA work, is unrecognized by other faculty at the university as merit for tenure. She cites Burke in her title and her introduction, drawing on his argument that sometimes it is your training (in her case, focus on WPA work as internal) that becomes an incapacity for you. Her NWP work required her to coordinate with the public school system, run summer sessions, and write extensive grants (which she argued should be counted as peer-reviewed publications, but didn’t.) She also experienced a great deal of friction with the previous, untenured, part-time instructor who ran the program. She was initially denied tenure, but when she proved to the dean that her necessary publication was accepted and being printed, her dean wrote a letter that should give her tenure. She is not directing the NWP after another year, when she will train someone else.

Reid, E. Shelley. “Will Administrate for Tenure, or, Be Careful What You Ask For.” 203-211.

When hired, Reid was told her tenure case would be decided 1/3 on scholarship, 1/3 on teaching, and 1/3 on administrative work. That promise, though, was not upheld at tenure-time, because though some department members believed in it, it was not a belief held by the rest of the university faculty. She was told to couch her administrative work as pedagogical, which gutted her case for tenure.

“Handing around copies of WPA statements, smart as they are, may have no more lasting effect than passing out handbooks to first-year composition students.” (211)

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