Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Meyers, Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations

Meyers, Susan. “Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 33.1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 152-162. Print.

A review of two books:

Dew, Debra Frank and Alice Horning, eds. Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007.

Enos, Theresa and Shane Borrowman, eds. The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2008.

In her review of these two collections, which focus on junior (untenured) WPAs, Meyers uses her own perspective (as someone who is about to start a jWPA job) to explore the current conversations around jWPA work. Meyers points out the contradiction apparent in these two collections and in other conversations about jWPA work: many senior scholars in the field (Horning, White, Roen) warn junior faculty against accepting a jWPA position, yet many new faculty take on these positions because of the realities of the job market and because they have administrative coursework and training in their doctoral programs. Meyers explains that there are two repeated (and inextricably related) ideas that come up in conversations about jWPA work: power and tenure. She argues that the fear that saturates the narratives about jWPA work needs to be “managed”: “otherwise,” she points out, “we may become immobilized by fear itself, rather than working to improve our situations” (154).

Meyers names five categories of warnings she saw repeated in the collection: “problems of resources, politics, market forces, job advancement, and job satisfaction” (156). The most often-cited resources that jWPAs lack are time, credibility, and authority.

Meyers makes a distinction between power that emerges from control and power that emerges from authority. She advocates for jWPAs to work towards increasing their power via increasing their authority within their own institution, and she offers five strategies for doing so: 1. Know your context; 2. Be realistic with program design; 3. Do not be alone; 4. Understand your value; and 5. Use your rhetorical tools (160-161).

Notable Notes

The idea of the “fourth dimension” of jWPA work – administration. Make sure that this is visible in tenure and promotion files.

The fear in jWPA scholarship emerges from 1. The idea that WPA work won’t be valued in tenure and promotion and 2. That my administrative work will take up so much time that I won’t be able to do the other things I need to do in order to get tenure.

Central argument of Promise and Perils: “these testimonials and reflections suggest that a central peril of WPA work is the inherent conflict of scholar-administrator identities. In response, they call for more tenure-line positions and more explicit promotion criteria.” (155)

Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators is more theoretically-minded, practical – making an argument against jWPAs but giving recommendations about how to structure these jobs ethically

We can increase our authority by demonstrating our value and the value of our programs, by developing strategies to negotiate for things that are important.

Quotable Quotes

“This sounds indeed like a no-win situation: As jWPAs, we are commissioned to do work that is not valued and that jeopardizes our future. In this context, we are never blessed with power. And that is, indeed, the fear: we are powerless now, and powerless we will remain. Unless, of course, we can find ways both of making ourselves valuable and of managing the obstacles that administrative work always entails” (154).

“The general message of both books is clear: The dangers that jWPAs face are real, and we have not yet done enough to address the situation” (152).

“Without the requisite authority—or even a clear set of objectives—in their work, jWPAs are more prone to becoming involved in a variety of levels of conflict. In large part, this potential for political tensions results from the nature of WPA work itself, as well as jWPAs’ novice stature. Although they are usually members of English departments, writing divisions, or other institutional units, jWPAs typically cross institutional lines, finding themselves involved in—and sometimes at odds with—the interests of both their home departments and their institutions at large.” (157).

“I believe that what WPAs should seek is power-via-authority, rather than power-via-control.” (159). How can we work “within the boundaries our institutions,” knowing that we can’t control them?

“Focus on what you can change in order to improve your job conditions, and resist feeling defeated by what you cannot. Alongside these efforts, we are reminded to keep in mind all of the other facets of our work that we likewise do control. From the rhetorical choices that we make as we strategize program changes to the attitudes that we maintain about our roles and identities in our institutions, we actually do control many aspects related to professional success.” (159-160).

May 29, 2009

American University Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion

American University Center for Social Media. “The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.” September 2007.

This code is designed to educate teachers and administrators about their right to appropriate fair use of copyrighted materials. Because fair use is misunderstood and there is a rampant fear of copyright litigation, educators don’t utilize all the possible resources they could when teaching and creating media literacy curriculum and limit their students’ own educational and creative, critical and productive projects. The authors of the code argue for teachers to educate themselves about their fair use rights and to create codes of best practices that can be used as guidelines for media literacy educators (hence the NCTE one.)

Quotable Quotes

different explanations of copyright protection and restrictions = “copyright folklore” – you need to know the law yourself and make your own judgments

Notable Notes

co-principal investigators are the same as those on the NCTE Code of Best Practices: Renee Hobbs, Peter Jaszi, Pat Aufderheide

Principles of media literacy education:

  • “All messages are constructions, created by authors for specific purposes.”
  • “People use their knowledge, skills, beliefs, and experiences to construct meaning from messages.”
  • “Different forms and genres of communication use specific codes, conventions, and symbolic forms.”
  • “Values and ideologies are conveyed in media messages in ways that represent certain world vies, sharing perceptions of world reality.”
  • “Media messages, media industries, and technologies of communication exist within a larger aesthetic, cultural, historical, political, economic, and regulatory framework”

fair use is an extension of 1st amendement rights; is critically important to educators

2 ways teachers cope with copyright and fair use: deliberate ignorance; hiding & trangression; hyper-compliance

methodology: interviewing teachers, producers, administrators, organizational leaders. All their names are in the back of the document.

May 28, 2009

CCCC Caucus on Intellectual Property, Use Your Fair Use

CCCC Caucus on Intellectual Property. “Use Your Fair Use: Strategies toward Action.” CCC 51.3 (Feb 2000): 485-488.

Teachers often don’t use the entire scope of their fair use privileges because they are afraid of legal action against them and because their universities and printshops, also fearful of legal action, develop policies that are far more strict than copyright’s fair use allowances. The CCCC Caucus on IP argues that compositionists need to learn about copyright and fair use, lead discussions on their campuses and with their print shops about the purposes and scope of fair use, and encurage teachers to use fair use to enrich their pedagogy.

May 25, 2009

Valentine, Plagiarism as Literacy Practice

Valentine, Kathryn. “Plagiarism as Literacy Practice: Recognizing and Rethinking Ethical Binaries.” CCC 58.1 (Sept 2006): 89-109.

Plagiarism needs to be understood and treated more broadly as a literacy practice rather than a black-and-white ethical binary, for the ethical lens through which we talk about plagiarism casts our students’ identities in particular ways they cannot dictate and does not validate certain kinds of student writing and work. Valentine uses an extended example of Lin, a 3rd year international PhD student who was accused of (and admitted to) plagiarism on a literature review. Valentine sees his lack of citation and original argument not as a criminal, unethical, and dishonest act, but rather as a an unawareness of American graduate education citation and literacy expectations. It is important to see the bigger picture teach plagiarism, then, not just as an ethical problem – one in which all students are in danger of being dishonest – but as a negotiation of cultural and social contexts and literacy practices.

Quotable Quotes

“Plagiarism is a literacy practice…something that people do with reading and writing” (89).

“Plagiarism becomes plagiarism as a part of a practice that involves participants’ values, attitudes, and feelings as well as their social relationships to each other and to the institutions in which they work” (89-90).

“The problem with teaching citation and plagiarism as rule following is that it is not enough for students to know the textual practices of citation. Rather, students need to know citation and plagiarism as literacy practices – as complicated ways of making meaning” (105).

Notable Notes

Butler – performative identites – you have your identity by what you do (students’ identities are formed by whether or not they adhere to textual citation practices and expectations)

students live in fear of plagiarizing. They aren’t safe – even honest students can unknowingly trip up and plagiarize, then labeled as dishonest (fear of going to jail as a kid)

ethical morality (Zygmunt Bauman) – being moral because you are following a rule, not because you are acting on what you think is right…no personal individual moral responsibility or choices needed

May 12, 2009

Howard, Standing in the Shadow of Giants

Howard, Rebecca Moore. Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors, Collaborators. Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1999.

Howard advances a new theory of authorship that contests current understandings of plagiarism and the construction of the student-plagiarist-criminal. Patchwriting, a term she coins for writer-text collaboration (likened to imitation, mimesis, re(formation)), is not a cheating behavior that should be punished and labeled as plagiarism. Rather, it is a necessary and acceptable way of learning, a method used and endorsed throughout history as a way for novices to learn the langauge needed to enter a discourse community. Students who patchwrite in their essays and papers with the intent of understanding difficult texts, of learning, not deceit, and are doing something all writers do – collaborate with texts – except that these novice students aren’t as adept at covering their traces as professional authors are. Her theory of authorship stands in opposition to the notion of the autonomous, original author and seeks to disrupt the liberal cultural hierarchy that maintains the current power structure that has an interest in keeping students, the masses, from finding a voice. Howard argues for a pedagogy based in summary-writing as a way to teach students what patchwriting is (and to use it towards pedagogical good) and ends the book by calling for a revision of current college plagiarism policies.

Quotable Quotes

definition of patchwriting = “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another” (xvii)

“The inclusion of patchwriting in the category of plagiarism denies students opportunities to become scholars” (xx)

“The prospect of decriminalizing patchwriting causes seismic disturbances in composition studies” (xx).

“We do not write alone, and often it is texts, not people, with whom we collaborate” (8).

Patchwriting is “a discursive operation not against the source author but toward the content in which the operation occurs” (19).

Need to teach students “how to manage their patchwriting in ways that are stylistically sophisticated and academically acceptable and that contribute to the writer’s understanding of the source text” (140)

“Let ‘patchwriting’ describe the act of enthusiasm in which students collaborate with their source texts for the purposes of understanding them and entering their discourse. Let us respond pedagogically to that phenomenon” (166).

Notable Notes

four properties of authorship: autonomy, proprietorship, originality, morality (77)

move from neutral mimesis/originality binary to a hierarchal plagiarist/author binary

do not conflate plagiarism and copyright. Copyright is state regulated, legal norms to protect the individual author. Plagiarism rules are locally regulated, societal norms to protect a community….you can change plagiarism rules without changing copyright law

there is allowable plagiarism – ghost-writing, Teflon, great-wit, postmodern (104) also traditions of African American folk preaching, non-Western education and rhetoric, digital hypertext

long list of theorists, philosophies: Locke, Descartes, Hobbes, Foucault, Addison, Emerson, Wordsworth, Edward Young, Bahktin, Quintilian, Plato, Homer

plagiarism dectection software: “This technology would freeze and reassert the notion of authorship in which writing is unitary, originary, proprietary, and linear, and in which the text is the locus and sole arbiter of meaning” – not allow for meaning in context, in the reader, in the author’s intent (131)

patchwriting has a ton to do with reading comprehension (cognitivist) and entering an intellectual community (social constructivist) (145)

Her breakdown: plagiarism – act of intention for deceit (buying a paper, on-purpose-cheating); failure to cite – failing to cite out of ignorance of academic citation conventions; patchwriting – a transitional stage

both failure to cite and patchwriting are pedagogical opportunities, not occassions to terrorize and punish students.

trying to rid patchwriting from students is asking them to be less complex, polyphonus, and honest & true

Blog at