Revolution Lullabye

June 23, 2015

Kinney, Fellowship for the Ring: A Defense of Critical Administration in the Corporate University

Kinney, Kelly. “Fellowship for the Ring: A Defense of Critical Administration in the Corporate University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 32.3 (Spring 2009): 37-48. Print.

Kinney enters the debate about creating full-time non-tenure-track lines in composition and argues that in writing programs throughout the U.S., these full-time lines, though not on the “faculty ladder,” do result in less exploitation of composition faculty. She uses her own experience as an ABD fellow in the Grand Valley State University’s Department of Writing (an independent writing program) to argue that these kinds of positions can not only give composition instructors greater stability and better wages and benefits but also can help create institutional environments that support and value the teaching of writing.

Kinney resists arguments made by Sledd, Bousquet, and others, who saw WPAs who created non-tenure-track composition lines as either complacent with the larger corporate university structure or as eroding the possibility of more tenure-lines. Kinney is pragmatic in her analysis, arguing that WPAs have the power to negotiate for better models for employing composition faculty.

Notable Notes

Discusses the debate about creating full-time non-tenure-track lines in composition: is it creating “boss compositionists,” with just a few tenured WPAs overseeing large masses of teachers, or is it a way that WPAs are trying to rectify the poor wages and working conditions of part-time, adjunct contingent labor?

Cites the major debate between James Sledd and Joseph Harris in CCC (September 2001), uses it to frame the discussion around non-tenure-track composition appointments. In this essay Kinney is responding to Sledd, who saw WPAs as complacent in higher administration’s plans to exploit composition labor.

Her admin work as a doctoral student slowed down her progress toward degree, ran out of her stipend. At the end of her 4th year she became a fellow at GVSU

Discusses the problem of putting pressure on grad students to professionalize, diversify, which slows down their progress (and many never finish). She argues though that her fellowship helped her on the job market and gave her a decent wage as she finished her PhD.

Defines “situated leadership” (a term coined by Sullivan et al), “a concept which reinterprets the ethic of service and helps theorize active ways of applying institutional critique.” WPAs should be rhetorical in how they administrate (40) Kinney argues that he WPAs at GVSU practiced “situated leadership” – reflective, critical analysis of situations, understanding the local context and situatedness.

The Department of Writing at GVSU had 2 kinds of FT NTT positions that had good wages and benefits: “the real improvements in work life for composition instructors are not to be underestimated” (41). One kind was a fellow for ABDs, MFAs, and PhDs. Fellows had conference support and had schedules to allow for scholarship, no service obligations. The second line was Affiliate Faculty positions – again, good wages, renewable 3-year contracts

This Department of Writing is independent of the English Department, and so was able to hire instructors who wanted to teach writing.

Key concept to her argument: the commitment to writing and composition, both the teaching and the field

Argues that FT NTT lines are a step up for composition instructors, who historically have been some of the most marginalized and vulnerable contingent faculty, rejects the “preoccupation with tenure lines,” saying that this position does not help these faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Although always influenced by institutional constraints, WPAs can be powerful advocates for traditionally exploited writing instructors” (38).

“I found administrative work politically empowering. It gave me a sneak peak into the mechanisms of university bureaucracy, allowed me to see how incremental change was possible, and taught me how I might become an agent in institutional reform” (39).

“Critique is slow to effect change, and often neglects institution-specific exigencies.” (40).

“Through their commitment to the teaching of writing as a legitimate academic pursuit—a commitment that necessitated creating quality working conditions for all writing instructors—Grand Valley’s WPAs were able to attract and maintain a stable, experienced, and well-credentialed staff of composition faculty, committed pedagogues eager to engage in innovative practices such as directed self-placement, multi-grader portfolio assessment, and the development of an undergraduate writing major” (43).

“When ladder faculty ignore their non-tenure-track colleagues by single-mindedly campaigning for tenure-track positions, exploitation ensues.” (44)

makes the point that negotiation is necessary, utopia is not possible with academic labor unions. Compromise is the name of the game:

“Although some equate all forms of administration with a dance with the devil—and of course there’s an undeniably romantic appeal to such an equation and dismissal—most people involved with the labor movement understand that negotiation is at the heart of collective struggle. As we move toward better working conditions for composition instructors, we must continue to negotiate with the corporate university” (45)

“Perhaps the biggest professional compensation I received at Grand Valley, then, was not the solid wages and scholarly status I earned as a Composition Fellow, but the administrative imagination to envision better working conditions for all writing instructors, but particularly adjunct workers. Because of the time I’ve spent in a department that fosters equitable working conditions, I have recognized the power of administrative agency, and the empowering potential of WPA work” (45) – the real gift of her position as fellow at GVSU

Wants to “work together to realize alternative labor possibilities” (46).

December 9, 2010

Jacobsohn, The Real Scandal in Higher Education

Jacobsohn, Walter. “The Real Scandal in Higher Education.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 159-184.

Jacobsohn uses his experience of working for the unionization of part-time faculty members at Long Island University-Brooklyn to argue for the importance of banding together adjuncts and their full-time colleagues in order to enact change at the university. He contends that part-timers often don’t move toward unionizing because they are used to being exploited and/or don’t consider that they could be the victims of exploitation: they assume that how they are treated is normal and OK. He describes four situations that will continue to prevent the needed addressing of the contingent labor problem in universities: 1. adjunct “passing” – adjuncts not acknowledging their status at the university; 2. inability for adjuncts to form a cohesive whole because of high turnover and temporary whole; 3. media and market forces working against unionization; and 4. refusal of full-time faculty to recognize the contingent labor problem and their role in it.

Notes and Quotes

“Writing this essay has been difficult for me because I write out of anger and frustration. I have read many intelligent and articulate essays about the pros and cons of employing contingent faculty in higher education, and I find it  difficult to identify with the dispassionate and distanced language these articles employ. I cannot repress entirely the irritation I feel when I hear glib analyses of the operations of power and privilege in texts and presentations. I believe that this language has failed us, has failed to reveal the problems that we have created and that we face in all their complexity, seriousness, and destructiveness” (161).

Part-time faculty members are a foundational part of the 21st cenutry university’s structure.

Full-time faculty members don’t like to regard themselves as workers – ties in with Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition.

“Full-time faculty often fail to see that they are responsible for adjunct faculty, and that ultimately, it is in their self-interest to take part in this process of changing not just the inequities associated with part-time faculty work, but with the very direction in higher education is moving” (179). There is a mutual interdependence between part-time faculty and full-time faculty.

Can’t wait for change to happen from above – must happen from below

December 8, 2010

Anson and Jewell, Shadows of the Mountain

Anson, Chris M. and Richard Jewell. “Shadows of the Mountain.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Stock and Schell. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 47-75.

The authors, recognizing the complexity of the contingent labor issue in composition teaching, give their own labor narratives in their work of composition and then comment on each other’s stories, representing both the attention to individual voices and necessary dialogue that they believe must occur when trying to solve some of the deep labor problems in higher ed teaching. Though Anson argues that most of the reform must start small and locally, he points out that many of these grass-roots changes can too easily be squashed by more powerful forces in higher university administration, and he contends that labor reform in composition and higher education can only succeed through visible, national-level lobbying through major national organizations using tactics like censure.

Notes and Quotes

Argue that this issue must be approached with attention to individual stories, voices, histories. It can only be solved or approached in a spirit of dialogue, which they try to represent in this piece.

Jewell: professional development, conference attendance for part-timers without support is often limited to where you can go round-trip in one day.

It’s not just low pay that is the problem – it is no job security, no tenure, no intellectual freedom to design courses, no power or say in a department

Even people in the same department – tenured, part-time, etc – don’t know each other and don’t know what each other would want in a revised labor structure.

Anson initially opposed hiring full-time adjuncts, wanted to rely on TAs and a few part-timers.

“Work, any work, was better than nothing. Shut doors represented a more chilling fear than even the lousiest of teaching jobs” (66). Social Darwinism mentality.

“But more subtle inequities can be found in dozens of college and university literacy programs across the country – inequities of course assignments, scheduling, and sensitivity to personal situations; inequities of representation in decisions about class size or workload; pay inequities between people doing the same jobs with the same expectations; inequities in access to equipment, phones, office space, lounges, computer labs, and libraries; inequities in performance assessment; inequities in the advanced scheduling of course assignments; and inequities in curricular and pedagogical freedom. Any employer – in a warehouse, a manufacturing firm, a country club, or a composition program – has a responsibility to treat employees fairly and equally” (68).

“Good writing programs not only treat all their employees with fairness and respect but also create a climate in which people of all ranks and employmenet categories work together in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, sensitive to each other’s needs and working for each other’s good, for the good of the program, and for the good of the students it serves” (71).

How do you treat those with the least amount of power – the untenured?

November 30, 2010

Crain, A Comment on ‘The Wyoming Conference Resolution’

Crain, Jeanie C. “A Comment on ‘The Wyoming Conference Resolution: Opposing Unfair Salaries and Working Conditions for Post-Secondary Teachers of Writing.’” College English 50.1 (1988): 96-99. Print.

Crain gives her personal account of a part-time instructor: teaching multiple sections at multiple institutions for little pay and no job security. Her narrative shows how the problems addressed in the Wyoming Resolution are enacted in one person’s life.

May 2, 2009

Crowley, Composition in the University

Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1998.

Crowley forwards her abolitionist argument through this collection of essays, which gives a detailed investigation of the history of higher education, the history of the relationship between literature and composition, and the development of the first-year course in American universities. She focuses on the divide in English studies between literature and composition and maintains that as long as the first-year course exists, literature will be held superior, intellectually and institutionally, over composition. First-year composition, she argues, exploits its teachers (unfair labor practices), exploits its students (has no measurable effect), has negative curricular effects (isolated out of a curricular sequence); contributes to negative classroom climates (gatekeeping role); prevents the field from achieving full professionalization and disciplinarity; and finally, hurts the professional careers of its teachers. (241) It is an anamolous, ill-fitting course in the modern American university. Instead of the first-year course, Crowley suggests offering a vertical sequence of writing electives, informed by the discipline of comp/rhet, which will answer more truthfully students’ needs instead of imposing needs on them from above. Crowley relies primarily on textbooks used in the classroom and published articles and books in the field about composition history to make her argument.

Quotable Quotes

First-year composition must “become part of a sequenced curriculum of courses that introduce students to discipline-specific principles and practices” (9).

difference of comp vs. lit and other fields: “Composition scholarship typically focuses on the processes of learning rather than on the acquisition of knowledge, and composition pedagogy focuses on change and development in students rather than on transmission of a heritage” (3)

“Over the years, then, first-year composition has been remarkable vulnerable to ideologies and practices that originate elsewhere than in its classrooms” (6) – those outside the field in power set the agenda; political ideologies make their way in the classroom, teachers/administrators use the class as an opportunity to forward their own agenda, regardless of its connection to first-year comp

“I doubt whether it is possible to radicalize instruction in a course that is thoroughly implicated in the maintance of cultural and academic hierarchy” (235)

Notable Notes

there aren’t jobs in comp because it’s thought of as “an exciting new field in which new academic priorities are being set” – there are jobs because of the universal requirement. That’s problematic. (3)

no motivated writing tasks in first-year composition; it exists outside of all other vertical curriculums and sequences in the university, isolated

comp’s relationship with pragmatism (Peirce, William James, Dewey, Emerson) v. literature’s relationship with humanism. This leads to the question whether literature should be taught in composition classrooms (a huge difference in ideology…product v. a process; reading over writing, suspicion of rhetoric, elite v. democratic education) – look at the College English Tate-Lindemann exchange

history of the connection between communication and composition (founding of CCCC) and the impact of WWII and the Cold War on the purpose of composition instruction

history of the process movement, affected by research funded through federal grants on pre-writing (D Gordon Rohman and Albert O. Wleche Project English study.) There was a real attempt to understand how students and writers discover, invent, and think. This led to research in developmental psychology and on the creative processes of artists and scientists. Writing to discover was seen as the first way to see this (thus the emphasis on personal expressive writing). Then, the influence of Emig, who actually looked at her and her students’ writing processes. Also, turn to classical rhetoric for invention heuristics. Cannot underestimate the impact of student war protests in 1960s and 1970s to redistribute power and authority. Crowley’s essay is “Around 1971: The Emergence of Process Pedagogy” – two moves: attention to student’s whole composing process (students as writers) and a student-centered classroom. Process and current-traditional pedagogy are complementary.

the curriculum of composition is debated turf; it is owned by the community (U of Texas Austin’s difference curriculum)

Nancy Fraser – needs claims, the movement from thin needs (mythology) to thick needs (ideology.) The claim is that students need first-year composition. Who really needs it? The university only requires a course if they think the students won’t elect to take it (258)

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