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.
“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).