Revolution Lullabye

November 11, 2010

Hindman, Learning as We G(r)o(w)

Hindman, Jane E. “Learning as We G(r)o(w): Strategizing the Lessons of a Fledging Rhetoric and Writing Studies Department.” 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. 107-129. Print.

Hindman argues that stand-alone departments of writing will not resolve the deep labor issues present in the teaching of undergraduate composition. The hierarchal structures present in the university which separate classes of workers through binaries (teaching v. research; practice v. theory) are pervasive throughout the entire institution. Only institutional practices can resolve material issues, which she argues should include creating a class of full-time, teaching-intensive positions that would replace the part-time lecturer and adjunct positions that form the bulk of the underpaid labor at universities.  HIndman warns that a stand-alone department is not a utopian condition for either the full-time composition and rhetoric faculty or the part-time instructors and graduate assistants who work in it. Hindman uses her own stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University to explain strategies and ways an independent writing program can challenge the hierarchal structure that the institution is framed around. This stand-alone department was established in the fall of 1993, through a merger of the composition faculty from English with the Academic Skills Center program, and consisted of one chair, four full-time faculty, thirty lecturers, and sixty graduate assistants. Hindman claims that the administrative load of running a university-wide writing program – and developing an independent department’s own programs – results in a change for the worst in working conditions for full-time composition faculty and for the lecturers because, with how the program was structured by upper administration, the lecturers did not have the same kind of job security as they had previously.

Notes and Quotes

“A proposal that includes a specific labor plan for lecturing faculty – addressing such issues as renewable contracts and permanent status, opportunity for merit awards, adequate office space – has a better chance to counteract the rigid and entrenched hierarchy of the academy’s work force” (126).

 “Neither English departments nor “MLA-like” power structures nor our own individual ambition for job security or position is solely or even collectively responsible for academia’s persistent caste system and co-optive processes. The multitiered work force, as indeed the process of co-option itself, is a predictable outcome of the academy’s institutionally sanctioned hierarchy” (109).

“In actuality, however, this dream of independence has been less than liberating for many. Some argue that the status of the profession has improved at the expense of the material working conditions of many professionals. While the discipline of composition studies has apparently survived its legitimation crises, the expertise and authority of a majority of its practitioners are persistently and willfully ignored on a massive, institutional scale” (107).

Uses Joseph Harris (2000) to talk about “comp droids” and James Sledd to talk about “boss compositionist”

She addresses the argument that the Wyoming Resolution has been co-opted by CCCC to focus on improving the status of the discipline, create tenure-track jobs for PhD holders – stepped away from the non-tenure-track labor issue.


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