Revolution Lullabye

November 15, 2010

Crow, Wagering Tenure by Signing on with Independent Writing Programs

Crow, Angela. “Wagering Tenure by Signing on with Independent Writing Programs.” .” 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. 213-229. Print.

Crow describes the “tenure wager,” the multiple aspects of tenure – academic freedom, economic security, local v. disciplinary participation and focus – one must consider when choosing what institution to work for and how to prepare oneself for the tenure and promotion decision. She addresses three areas of concern for both tenure-track faculty and their senior faculty colleagues and department chairs: what the general local climate is like (strategic plans, departmental histories, mission, available funding, number of comp scholars to share administrative duties); the expectations for administrative labor (running programs, developing programs, training teachers, how administration will or won’t be counted as publications for scholarship); and the evaluation of administrative labor in tenure and promotion guidelines (get it in writing). She uses her experience at Georgia Southern to explain each of these areas of concern. She warns that creating independent writing programs requires a lot of labor, and argues that the field needs to be open in discussing this because it can have serious implications on junior faculty’s ability to get tenure.

Notes and Quotes

The catch-22: focusing on your scholarship at the expense of your department’s needs in order to gear up for tenure or working on largely invisible administrative tasks at the expense of getting publications – what is rewarded? What is important?

“Tenure is always a wager, and one hopes that a fit exists between the individual and the community, but composition traditions complicate the ability to wager tenure” (228).

She compares the position of a tenure-track professor in a fledging independent writing program or department and in a English program with a strong comp/rhet contingent that values the scholarship and research of composition and rhetoric. Which is really better?

Uses the cosmopolitan/local distinction to describe how a tenure-track professor’s own positioning in the field might be in jeopardy if she is engaged in the necessary administrative work to develop curriculum and an independent program or department.

Interesting conundrum: universities are more and more influenced by economics, market. All of a sudden, undervalued composition has more market value than composition.

November 9, 2010

Crow and O’Neill, Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change

Crow, Angela and Peggy O’Neill. “Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Eds. O’Neill, Crow, and Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 1-18.

This introduction provides an overview for some of the issues present in independent or stand-alone writing programs and departments. They argue that the move toward independent programs and departments allows the field the opportunity to define themselves as something other than different from literature. The authors, who along with Larry Burton have co-edited this edited collection, focus the book on the question, “What happens when rhet/comp separates from literature, forming two different departments?” They emphasize the importance of local context and histories in the formation and development of independent programs and departments, local situations that shape what the program or department looks like administratively, what kinds of programs it is responsible for, and how it is seen intellectually by itself and on campus. The chapters include descriptions of how individual independent writing programs were created and developed, relying on the case study and narrative to explain the challenges that the faculty and administrators of the stand-alone writing units faced. These local histories point to some of the issues and implications for the field to consider as writing faculty move into independent programs and departments, such as questions regarding tenure, staffing, and composition’s connection to service and teaching. The collected essays in show that, with independence, there is both loss and gain. The third section has scholars from the field comment on the implications for the discipline of independent writing programs and departments.

Quotes & Notes

“The creation of stand-alone writing units – whether programs or departments – provides us with an opportunity to define ourselves in new ways instead of against literature and literary scholarship. It is a chance to begin new and better academic traditions where we can enact what we value instead of spending our energy defending it” (9)

thinking of Latour – how the field is defined by how it is acting in each particular local context.

June 11, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, and Burton, Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002.

This collection focuses on independent writing programs, writing programs, majors, and graduate programs that have split off from traditonal English literary studies. The various case studies in the book show the challenges of independence: how the new program situates itself theoretically, politically, and institutionally, taking on questions of identity while trying to maintain daily operations. The editors hope that this collection, and the trend of independent writing programs, will help the field begin to define itself positively, by what they do, instead of in opposition to what they don’t do (traditional English studies.) The book is divided into three parts: 1. local case studies and their problems and possibilities 2. connections from local case studies to larger theoretical and ethical issues in the field 3. the future of the discipline and the place of rhetoric and composition in the changing 21st century university.

Quotable Quotes

“The creation of stand-alone writing units – whether programs or departments – provides us with an opportunity to define ourselves in new ways instead of against literature and literary scholarship. It is a chance to begin new and better academic traditions where we can enact what we value instead of spending our energy defending it” (9).

Notable Notes

the challenge of defining a vertical curriculum (a major) when the discipline is still being defined, negotiated

building a program means building a community

variety of ways these independent programs are formed: top-down, bottom-up, slowly, quickly, horizontal v. vertical curriculum

what traditions, values does the independent writing program adopt?

February 3, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, Burton, A Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton, eds. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing.”

This chapter explains the history of the gradual separation of writing and composition duties from the rest of an English department faculty and the subsequent creation of an independent department in academic, creative, and professional writing at Grand Valley State University. Over the course a of decade in the 1990s, the English department hired eight new tenure-track faculty in rhet/comp (in a large department of 40 full-time faculty), and with this cohort of writing specialists, teamed with part-time instructors and full-time, post-doc composition fellows, the literature faculty gradually opted out of teaching the required composition courses. When the administration discovered this imbalance, they told the English chair that until more faculty taught composition, there would be no new hires, as it was clear by their attitude that composition was low on the department’s hierarchy. The faculty then were faced with three choices: give up teaching elective speciality courses so everyone could teach a section of composition, hire new comp/rhet faculty into the department to teach it, or reduce the number of sections by allowing some students to opt out of the course. The faculty, realizing that none of these solutions was desirable, agreed to allow academic, creative, and professional writing become its own department, one completely focused on the discipline of writing studies, able to branch out and make partnerships across campus without having to be moderated by a large English department that wasn’t interested in rhetoric and composition as a legitimate field of study.

Quotable Quotes

“Indeed, separate from English, writing can finally begin to see itself once again within the context of the liberal arts more generally – rather than as a ‘basic skill’ relegated to preliberal education. It can now exist alongside other parts of the liberal-arts whole, rather than beneath them, servicing them, holding them up.” (36).

Notable Notes

A rhet/comp PhD is trained to teach more than first-year composition; advertising for a job that only teaches first-year (because the rest of the faculty don’t want to teach it) isn’t going to attract quality candidates.

Developing the culture of the program – valuing writing as the central organizing concept – is essential for new departments

confidence for making an independent department worked came from developing a successful university-wide writing program and writing assessment/evaluation system.

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing and What the External Conflict Resolution Consultants Recommended.” 38-49.

This chapter shows the problems of a top-down administrative decision to create an independent writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University in 1997. The administration decided that the large, 75-faculty member department of English and Philosophy needed restructuring, and the faculty submitted three models for consideration: stay a single department with three program directors (writing, literature, graduate studies); become two separate departments (philosophy and literature, writing and linguistics); become two separate departments under a new school. The administration picked the second model, thus divorcing the faculty from each other and withholding any collaboration and collection that would have come from being part of the same school. The faculty were not consulted about what department they would be placed in, so the department of writing and linguistics inherited several literature instructors with their MAs along with new rhet/comp hires. The diversity of viewpoints about pedagogy, content, research expectations, compounded by different salaries and degrees (PhDs and MAs) created a department rife with internal conflict. An external conflict resolution team came in and suggested structural changes, such as developing two associate chair positions, and joint projects, like the National Writing Project and a new BA in writing and linguistics have united the department somewhat since.

Quotable Quotes

“The faculty in our department were polarized based largely on degree and background – Ph.D’s versus master’s, composition-rhetoric background versus literature background, new hires versus veterans. But we wonder if it is possible that the fighting and one-upping were exacerbated because of the low status, low salaries, and perception as a service department, which both groups have in the whole academic system” (47).

Notable Notes

Warning – don’t go with restructuring just because administration pushes for it. Faculty need to be on board and know what is happening, understand the identities and cultures being made and reinforced.

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