Revolution Lullabye

December 8, 2010

Lipson and Voorheis, The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts

Lipson, Carol and Molly Voorheis. “The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts: Revising the Conditions for Part-Time Faculty at Syracuse University.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 107-131.

Lipson and Voorheis describe the new teaching culture established through the independent Syracuse Writing Program, focusing on the 1. mechanisms that were put into place that allowed part-time faculty to take leadership positions that included compensation; 2. the merit pay system that allowed for part-time teaching careers; and 3. the peer evaluation portfolio system of part-time teachers. They argue that the changes in the material conditions for part-time instructors go hand-in-hand with the cultural change in the program and at the university for valuing writing instruction – one does not occur before another; they happen in dialogue. Voorheis and Lipson argue that the Syracuse Writing Program was not just interested in changing the material conditions of its instructors; rather, the director (Phelps) worked with the members of the Program to radically shift the culture of the Writing Program and the university to one that visibly valued writing pedagogy, scholarship, and administration.

Notes and Quotes

Written 15 years after the first moves towards making the Syracuse Writing Program – after the “honeymoon” period.

The Writing Program (through the leadership of Phelps) used innovative, opportunistic ways to provide money for leadership and professional development activities, finding flexibility through packing sections to capacity and using extra ones, that were budgeted for, as release or discretionary sections (these were reigned in with the Syracuse University campus-wide budget cuts.)

In addition to working on part-time instructor working conditions in the Writing Program, there has been work towards opening up opportunties campus-wide for part-time instructors (can propose for funding, representation on the University Senate)

have not been able to create full-time instructor positions because of lawsuit potential: university faculty handbook says anyone who has taught for 6 years get tenure unless they are officially denied tenure.

“The merit awards helped established the basic values of the new teaching culture” (114).

created a 4-tier merit pay plan in the 1989-1990 school year: allowed for a sequence of advancement, identify those activities that were worthy of merit reward (115)

Introducing merit pay does create a tension: there are some who believe that all should be treated equally and others who think that those who contribute differently should be compensated differently.

Problems of the tiered merit pay plan: 1. the tiers were supposed to lead to full-time positions, which never materialized, so now they are dead-ends. 2. it takes a long time to progress, so beginning teachers are still not paid very well; 3. the merit pay increases cut into the yearly across-the-board raises, esp. those at the top of the pool – “The problem is inherent in a process bounded by a fixed salary pool that must accommodate both annual raises and merit tier upgrades” (118).

A system based on merit pay depends on evaluation (the TEC, put into place in spring 1990). This is expensive. It was redesigned years later to be sort of like tenure: once a part-time instructor passes through a certain level, they do not have to be evaluated, and the TEC does no longer include full-time faculty or adminstrative members. This new plan creates a new category of PWI: veteran intstructor, attainable after teaching in the Program for 5 years.

“The force of the new teaching culture was to emphasize the professional status of part-time faculty, and to underline their value to the program and to the profession.”

problem with coordinating groups: some of the instructors who taught in the old program saw it as top-down supervision and monitoring, not independence and professional (121-122). The structure of the coordinating groups changed to meet these concerns and needs of instructors, Program.

Suspicion: “While the program identiied these sites as generative places for the creation of a new culture, the part-time faculty viewed them through lenses ground in the old teaching culture – or in similar hierarchical environments” (121).

The teaching culture’s drawbacks are also its strenghs: it is a teaching culture (threatened by the new PhD program, which introduces a different cultural ethos); 2. it is resistant to change; 3. it relies on part-time – not full-time – positions.

peer control in evaluation

attached is the first and revised merit pay plan for PWIs


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