Revolution Lullabye

November 10, 2010

Aronson and Hansen, Writing Identity: The Independent Writing Department as a Disciplinary Center

Aronson, Anne and Craig Hansen. “Writing Identity: The Independent Writing Department as a Disciplinary Center.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Ed. Peggy O’Neill, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 50-61. Print.

The authors, part of the independent Department of Writing at Metropolitan State University, explain how they have worked to redefine writing as a legitimate academic field, worthy of an undergraduate major, instead of a service course. They define the work they do in their department as perceiving writing as a practice, an art, and a profession, and comment on the tensions that naturally arise in a dual-identity department, one that administers the “service” course and holds its own undergraduate and graduate programs, one that must be both responsive to the needs of the university and the needs of its own students. They note the institutional circumstances that gave the Department of Writing more flexibility and freedom than other schools: it serves an older, diverse, urban-based, vocationally-oriented population, and the faculty do not meet as departments but rather as a whole university to make curriculum and policy decisions. The university, the authors note, has an “entrepreneurial feel” that has served this department well, which contains undergraduate programs in creative, professional, and technical writing, a master’s program in technical communication, a university writing center, and oversees the required first-year course. Some of the challenges of the administration of this program are due to large overhead costs and labor: the department relies heavily on adjunct teaching (“community faculty” teach 70-80% of the lower division courses), the faculty are unionized, the WPA also serves as chair.

Notes and Quotes

“The perception of writing as a service course is so pervasive in academic culture that any attempt to expand that perception creates dissonance” (50).

Two important administrative points that (usually) happen with an independent program: the program gets departmental consideration for budget, faculty, staffing. The WPA is on the same level as a department chair. (At SU, this had to be argued for, developed. It didn’t come naturally.)

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