Revolution Lullabye

August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

February 9, 2009

Hult, The Scholarship of Administration

Hult, Christine. “The Scholarship of Administration.” In Resituating Writing: Constructing and Administering Writing Programs. Eds. Joseph Janangelo and Kristine Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. 119-131.

Hult, a longtime member of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and an editor for WPA, argues two things: higher education needs to acknowledge and reward the work of WPAs as scholarship of administration and WPAs need to do a better job of convincing the academy of the scholarly nature of their work. She points out that WPAs do all four kinds of scholarship outlined by Boyer: application, integration, teaching, and discovery. This work is not service; it is intellectual scholarship because the writing and administrative work that WPAs do is rhetorical in nature, informed by disciplinary knowledge, and “published” (and has an impact) on a broad audience. To increase recognition of their work, WPAs should forward department chairs and deans important documents that they create, include administrative work under the “scholarship” section of their tenure and promotion cases instead of under “service,” and work to create an administrative portfolio that highlights their work, much like a teaching portfolio.

Quotable Quotes

“As WPAs, we shouldn’t succumb to the myth of the superhuman professor. Rather we should consciously direct our career paths in the best interest of both ourselves and our campus communities” (127) – can’t be a super-duper researcher, teacher, and administrator all at once

How to achieve recognition: “through agressive public relations, thoughtful publication, and careful documentation of our work” (130) to create systems to evaluate and reward WPA work.

The scholarship of administration: “The systematic, theory-based production and oversight of a dynamic program” – akin to music, theater, dance (126).

Notable Notes

Scholarship of application – creating programs, syllabi, training teachers, WPA is often the only composition scholar leading a teaching staff of non-specialists (different from a department chair administering over faculty)

Scholarship of integration – reading across disciplines, running WAC programs, incorporating technology in writing curriculum

Scholarship of discovery – published or not, informal and formal reseach into the program, working to keep programs reflective of the work in the field

Scholarship of teaching – evaluations, syllabi, course development

Section of the development and history of the journal WPA

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