Revolution Lullabye

November 10, 2010

Agnew and Dallas, Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing.” 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. 38-49. Print.

The authors trace the issues that arose in the new independent department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University, a large (60-plus faculty) department that was created top-down by the upper administration when the Department of English and Philosophy was divided in the fall of 1997. The authors claim that the department was so troubled and divisive because of three main issues: that the creation of the department was driven by administration, not the faculty within the department (who actually voted to keep the large English and philosophy department one or place them in a school together); that those with degrees in literature and literary studies were assigned – without asking them what they thought – to a department of writing – and the new department did not have a major, and therefore its central purpose was open to contestation. There were tensions between the seven newly hired rhet/comp faculty and the “senior” faculty and instructors in literature who had worked at the university for years: who decides curriculum? Who is in charge? Also, the department was seen at the university as a service department, adding low pay and low morale to the mix.

 Notes and Quotes

Interesting connection to SU Writing Program – the vast majority of the teachers in the new program were trained in literature, literary studies. How was this implosion sidestepped?

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.

January 26, 2009

Chaput, “Lest We Go the Way of Vocational Training”

Chaput, Catherine. “Lest We Go the Way of Vocational Training: Developing Undergraduate Writing Programs in the Humanist Tradition.” WPA 31.3 (Spring 2008) 15-31.

Chaput argues for structuring undergraduate writing majors around the conjunction between cultural studies and rhetoric, citing that this politically-active theoretical foundation will best serve students, who must communicate in a globalized, interdisciplinary, integrated world of sign-symbols and discourse systems. Rhetoric has been treated as a sub-sub-discipline (of composition and English), thus fracturing and fragmenting its study at the university, but the undergraduate writing major has the possibility of allowing students to focus on rhetoric with a cultural studies inquiry (as is done in many graduate programs.) The Writing and Culture concentration at Georgia Southern University is used as the model in the article; it is one of four concentrations in the Writing Department and is the most theoretical and humanist of all of them. Chaput is concerned with the professionalization of writing majors, arguing that undergraduate students should be trained to see the connection between rhetoric and democracy in all spheres of public discourse.

Quotable Quotes

“In an interdisciplinary world, writing programs need to interact with the rhetorical functions of politics and entertainment as they emerge in both public and private spaces” (16).

“foundation in liberal, rather than mechanical, arts” (16).

“continually working at the intersections of rhetorical humanism and cultural studies” (16).

wants majors to “be based exclusively on rhetorical humanism and cultural studies. Such a curriculum would move beyond the professionalizing, reproductive mechanism of traditional rhetorical practices, at least within the domain of composition, and embrace rhetoric as a dynamic that produces the material and textual world through cultural, political, and economic valuations” (22).

such a major gives students “the theoretical and practical tools necessary to engage, negotiate, and transform a world in which textuality dominates our personal and public lives, encouraging a politics and culture of engagement” (26).

Notable Notes

other concentrations in the major are linguistics, creative writing, and professional and technical writing.

service/applied/outreach courses

theory courses are cross-listed graduate

uses Freire to talk about rhetorical humanism goals

writing majors can’t just prepare students for workplace writing

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