Revolution Lullabye

June 9, 2015

Phelps, Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace

Phelps. Louise Wetherbee. “Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace.” Feminine Principles and Women’s Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric. Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and Janet Emig. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1995. Print. 289-339.

Phelps explores how women in the academy, specifically women writing program administrators, can take up, assume, and use power. She points out that when she became a writing program administrator, she did not have a model or theory available to her about how she, as a woman and as a compositionist, could accept and use the institutional power invested in her administrative position. Phelps argues against the idea that power is antithetical to feminist principles; rather, she argues for a conception of feminist power that is productive, generative, and expansive, one that allows for both a strong executive leader and distributed, collaborative, asymmetrical authority. She works in this essay to “construct a more adequately complex and nuanced feminism” (300). She asks “what it might be meant by feminist” in the context of assuming power and writing program administration (300).

Phelps uses her own experiences as the writing program administrator and Director of the Syracuse Writing Program to investigate the paradoxes and complexities of power for women, composition/writing programs, and female leaders in the academy and writing program administrators. Phelps discusses how she worked to create layered, asymmetrical groupings through the coordinating groups and other Writing Program task forces and committees. Phelps also describes the resistance she faced from her teachers when she asserted power or used rhetoric in a centralized, directed way (through talks to the program or published director’s writings.)

Phelps draws on the work done to explain the multifaceted feminization of composition within the academy (teaching as women’s work, nurturing work of the writing classroom, composition without institutional power or control, practice v. theory, low status of contingent faculty who teach composition, writing as skill.) She defines power as productive and generative, not coercive. Power, according to Phelps, can allow for positive influence, though she avoids sweeping utopian positions and generalizations. Phelps argues for the role of a strong executive in program leadership – a strong leader who can wield centralized authority can represent and argue for the program as a whole in an institutionally-recognizable way. At the end of her piece, Phelps calls for more work that interrogates her central paradox: the necessity of power within institutions and for leadership, and the implications of that power and its creations for feminists, for women, and for composition.

Notable Notes

Central architecture of the argument:

  1. “Invitation to Power” – reviews the feminization of composition, WPA work, and sexism in the academy. Calls for a definition/understanding of the feminist power, a model for how a feminist might use and assume power ethically and for good.
  1. “Constructing and Complicating the Feminist Workplace” – argues that the workplace of composition is already feminist (writing/English classroom gives discursive authority to women; composition classroom has embraced feminist pedagogical principles; the predominance of women within the workplace of composition means that women have a disproportionate chance to benefit from composition workplaces that give them opportunities to lead and learn). Explains her decision to become the WPA at Syracuse: “it was vaguely but genuinely a moral decision responding to the summons to take up responsibility toward others, to act on my convictions” (306). Describes how she envisioned developing an inquiry-based writing program that depended on the creative power of the teachers and her emerging ideas of what it meant to be a leader. Explains the paradox of power and agency and responsibility: agency is not ultimately freeing, with power comes discipline, rules, and responsibility, and professionalization will not improve the working conditions of all because not all will be able to participate. Explains how she built the program purposefully around asymmetry, not symmetry.
  2. “Lessons of the Feminist Workplace” – organized complexity, bravery

The WPA role itself is feminized – it is marginal, instable within the academy’s institutional structure: “More truly marginal than in the feminist sense, we are like animals of the tidal zone, neither sea nor land creatures” (291).

You have a choice, as a WPA, to accept or reject a position of power. But where does rejecting leave us? (292)

Names the problems of a utopian feminist vision, where power is shared equally, symmetrically, without hierarchy (293) – how this is not workable in a workplace. Names the potential negatives of a woman-centered workplace (301).

Explains how in her first few years as the Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, she did not see her situation as gendered (she did not recognize the reaction of others – both those teachers within the program and higher administrators – as rooted in sexism.) Phelps was more focused on the feminized status of composition within the university (specifically at Syracuse.) (296-297)

The reaction to women (and composition) – the reactions of “exclusion” and “devaluation” – “do not go away when the door opens a crack and we squeeze in” (299).

Phelps notes throughout that these memories – writing about these moments – is painful and hard.

De-centering authority (in a classroom, in a program) requires authority (304). To have the choice to de-center authority means that you have the institutional power to make that choice, decision.

Phelps discusses her reasons for taking up the position of Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, why she made this choice (306). At the time, it was not a gendered decision – she wanted to enact her vision of literacy, composition within a teaching community (306).

Discussion of how she thought through the ethics of WPA work, of relying on teacher’s intellectual energy, of coming to terms with contingent labor (308-310; especially her responsibility to the teachers and ethical employment on 313-315; giving teachers options through professional development 317-318).

The teaching community and empowering teachers’ own individual agency is central to her vision of the writing program (309-310)

The program’s most basic right: “Its right to try” (315) – that means the right of the teachers to try, to design, to grow, to experiment.

The material benefits a writing program can offer are never going to be enough to offset the work and low pay and low status of teaching composition (317).

Those teachers “who exploit these opportunities for development will gain options: they will have more choices about staying there or moving on” (318).

The “killer dichotomy” (Ann Berthoff) – that the ideal of a “flattened hierarchy”/symmetry and complete shared power versus the idea of a determinist hierarchy of power, that the power structure in place can’t be challenged or disrupted (320)

In her asymmetrical organization, she relied on three “significant asymmetries” – 1. “institutional authority”; 2. “attributes of competence”; and 3. “commitment or investment of oneself in the program.” Phelps tried to “subvert” #1 with #2 and #3, but maintained that #1 (executive power, authority through position or degree or credential) is important for the program as a whole and the people in it. (322)

Power as influence versus power as coercion (322-323)

She saw the empowerment of her program as emerging from three things: 1. Enabling conditions (both two-way communication and a director that encourages/articulates teachers’ own understandings of the program); 2. Structures (creating, revising structures and starting new traditions that form a community); 3. Exemplification (naming, modeling, “dramatizing” the principles and strategies of the program so that they are visible) (323-326)

Program v. department rhetoric (program as productive, community, cohesive) (327)

Discusses the importance of community in creating a program that works – people want to feel a sense of belonging (though the backlash against insular, “insider” communities.) Belonging to the community is a benefit for its members (327)

the idea that we are not in a utopia – we work in a workplace

 

Quotable Quotes

“As a writing program administrator, what I find incomplete or inadequate in these characterizations of feminization is that they fail to analyze the problem of empowerment or help us meet it when it actually comes – accompanied by its own paradoxes and discrepancies between appearance and reality, marked by lags, slippages, and regressions, but genuinely different for all that. The meaning of composition’s gendering is not immutably fixed but is suspectible to transformation (though not simple reversal) when its members, and particularly its women, begin to pursue their intellectual projects and enact their values with confidence and some measure of institutional support” (290-291).

“Yet analyses of composition as feminized can never fully anticipate the shift in the problem space that occurs when we begin to move into the tidal zone of power, nor the peculiar challenges of a transitional period. They do not contemplate the guilt and ambivalence and jealousies that will inevitably accompany accession to power; nor do they confront the radical transformation it requires in both strategies and moral understandings” (291-292).

“In short, our current understanding of the feminization of composition provides neither ethical nor strategic guidance in ‘right action,’ either for women who, as senior faculty and administrators, must learn to exercise power wisely or for the field as it begins to acquire resources, centrality to an institution’s mission, and the increased clout that goes with this position. Handling our own power, that is, coming to terms with the ineluctable authority of the writing teacher, is a central, unresolved problem for feminist classroom pedagogy. It becomes acute when the domains and forces involved are larger: programs, departments, institutions, disciplines, and the winds of social change that are sweeping over all of them” (293).

Reject pessimistic visions of power: “For the moment, I will simply say this: if as feminists we are arguing for broadly distributed power and access, we must be prepared to imagine that one can ethically have visions, lead, and wield power despite the imperfectability of institutions and the tragic limitations of human action” (293).

“What I missed here (just as well, since it might have paralyzed me with cynicism or despair) was the triple burden created for the woman leader in composition by the intertwinings of power with gender, teaching, and writing” (297).

“What I had yet to learn, on the bones, was the circuit of devaluation that runs from women in general to women’s work to composition as a feminized discipline and back to the concrete institutional project – the writing program as an enterprise, and its people. The program as a project is ignored as an intellectual force or set of ideas insofar as it is perceived as a bunch of women doing a remedial service; dismissed or critiqued (as requiring structure and external control) insofar as its practices are perceived as soft and feminine; vilified insofar as its values and leaders are perceived as dangerously, powerfully ‘feminist; or simply because it begins to be too successful in a competitive environment. Such attitudes get an extra jolt from the enormous ego investment most people have in their own writing and in moralistic beliefs about what counts as ‘good writing.’

Too often, these intense feelings are concentrated and discharged malevolently on the embodied persons of the women, teachers and leaders alike, who construct their program and teach composition with bravery, fear, and ambivalence.” (297-298). The whole writing program was devalued, suffered from layers of sexism

In the end, the story is about joy:

“Finally, though, these painful emotions are not at the core of my experience as a woman directing a writing program, nor should their distorting effects be allowed to define sourly the enterprise or the community. They are simply the penumbra. The core is joy: the fun, the ingenuity, the collaboration, the exhilaration when something works, the laughter, the leap, the learning. What compels my attention, my passion, and my intellectual interest as a feminist is the thrill of possibility in our accession to power; the moral, practical, and rhetorical complexities that we encounter in daily work on constructive projects in real-world contexts; the feminism that might arise in such a crucible” (299).

The organization of writing programs as unique in the academy: “As organizations, writing programs combine a certain boundedness, recognizability, and clear definition as communities (delimited in space, in membership, in curricular purposes) with diffusion and interpenetration into the academic context through cross-curricular activity and communication with students, faculty, and administrators in many units and at all levels of the university hierarchy” (308).

The importance of people in a writing program: “Despite my inexperience as an administrator, I assumed that the single most critical factor in the success of a programmatic enterprise is smart, dedicated people: faculty and staff who are intellectually and morally engaged in working for shared goals” (308)

Phelps’ vision of her role as WPA, in regards to starting an inquiry-based writing program that relied on and valued the teachers: “I tried to place teachers’ own reflective thought and collaboration at the center of curriculum development and their intelligent, caring, and responsible interaction with students at the heart of learning” (309).

And this: Her leadership “lay rather in the idea of forming and orchestrating the activity of a teaching community in which people would be authorized and supported to teach flexibly within a broad framework of common goals, to invent curriculum together, to build a program that would finally have intellectual and educative value not only for the students taught but also for the university, the discipline, and for educational theory and practice” (309).

“Agency does not imply absolute power or freedom to do anything you please. Indeed, I discovered, there is a ratio between power and discipline: the greater your authority, the more visible and multiple the disciplines (rules, orders, structures) you must both accept for yourself and impose on others” (311).

“Leadership involves more than generative (‘maternal’ or enabling power)…It requires leaders also to channel, constrain, and judge the actions of others” (311).

“Diffusion of power is the diffusion of problems of power” (311-312).

“An increase in authority, voice, and autonomy is not an unqualified good in and of itself” (312) What teachers in the Syracuse Writing Program quickly discovered. If professionalization is offered and encouraged, it puts at a disadvantage those who cannot or do not or will not take advantage of these opportunities, even if they are not required.

The writing program is not an utopia: “In treating teachers as moral agents – adults – and providing opportunities for curricular control and leadership, I exposed them, perhaps involuntarily, to new risks and pressures while possibly exploiting their capabilities and energy without adequate reward” (313).

“I assumed that inequalities of power as well as of hierarchy are inevitable in any large social organization, patriarchal or otherwise. The possibilities for sharing power among groups in the writing program are circumscribed by the specific social facts of its membership and the organization of the university as a political and bureaucratic workplace. I proposed to work with, rather than against, these real-world constraints” (320).

The asymmetrical power relations within the Syracuse Writing Program: “The social architecture of this program created new power: it generated or attracted energy, enabled novelty and change, created new order and legitimacy, and gave people more personal autonomy and scope for action” (323).

“In actual life, in political life specifically, I think that institutions and programs, like nations, survive and thrive only when people develop a powerful sense of belonging and loyalty to them, and do indeed serve them partly for their own sake: as embodiment, however flawed and mixed, of noble human purposes, as homes or places of work and life, and as human families and collectivities that they love. If there is any single claim that feminists, in composition and elsewhere, seem to be making, it is that women’s work in families and society (the invisible work of managing social interaction [DeVault; Fishman]) prepares them to understand and build such communities. Many of the ‘feminine principles’ I have described here and tried to follow as a leader (collaborative work, consensus building, conversation, professional development, deconstructive use of asymmetries) enact a conception of relations as intrinsically rewarding” (327).

“We are back to the point that power frightens people. Even the most benign power, and most especially collective power, is in part coercive, whether overtly, through rules and rulers, hegemonically, through structures tacitly assimilated, or interactionally, through rhetorical forces. Perhaps even constructive power made available to ourselves is frightening in the electricity it creates and the demands it generates” (328).

“The issue of power is assuredly among the most difficult that feminists face. Power is most often experienced as oppression, and hence the desire for it is frequently disavowed. Yet, insofar as power is the energy and control that gets things done, it is not only an ineluctable dimension of any situation, it is something that feminists require” Nina Baym, quoted in Phelps (329).

“The key to warriorship…is not being afraid of who you are…Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s greatest problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance and shyness, and face the world” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Remember I asked – and postponed answering – the more fundamental question, whether it is ever right to accept invitations to power in the academy. Given the willingness to teach writing, to work in any institution of American higher learning as a scholar or teacher, but especially in tenured of relative economic comfort and privilege, it seems to me the fundamental choice has already been made; what remains is just responsibility and the specific conditions that make it right or possible to take it” (332).

December 31, 2010

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling the Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth-Anniversary Speech.” The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry in Action and Reflection. Eds. Rose and Weiser. Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1999. 168-84.

Phelps uses the metaphor of a “Great Group” to explain the heady, exciting first years of the Syracuse Writing Program. It wasn’t exactly a “Great Group” – Great Groups are usually elite, young, and self-selected, and at the Writing Program, the independent writing program grew from a very heterogeneous faculty and staff, diverse in age, experience, and in degree. Phelps explains that the Writing Program had a tension-filled dynamic, a thrilling roller-coaster ride oscillating between order and chaos. Phelps argues that this dynamic is central to the development of any complex system or organization. Phelps also describes the storytelling role of leaders, explaining why it is crucial for WPAs to use rhetoric through speech and through writing to communicate to their program and to the university at large.

Phelps, Practical Wisdom and the Geography of Knowledge in Composition

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Practical Wisdom and the Geography of Knowledge in Composition.” College English 53.8 (1991): 863-885.

Phelps investigates what the field values and the theory/practice tension in the discipline and in the academy. She argues that theory does not necessarily govern practice: that practice can be critical and tacit and that activity produces knowledge. She extends a teacher’s critical reflection and practical experimentation outside an individual classroom or teacher by explaining how practical wisdom can be cultivated in a teaching community. She uses the Syracuse Writing Program as her site of research.

Notes and Quotes

explains what theory has to offer practice, and what practice has to offer theory

“The resistance of a wise practice to theory redeems us from the danger of claiming to predict or dictate human life rather than trying to explain or understand it. Practical wisdom reminds us that theoretical systems are never exhaustive or adequate to phenomena, and thus undercuts their totalizing tendencies. This is the humbling discipline that practice has to offer theory, in return for its freedom” (884).

teacher-talk and lore – these are often confined to an individual’s own classroom experience. She expands this through program, curriculum development to talk about how knowledge is produced in a teaching community.

practical knowledge depends on a immediate and deep back-talk, reflective cycle

Scholes, North, Stenhouse

“Making things and performing actions both require ‘calculative’ reasoning, under similar conditions of relativity and uncertainty. Interestingly, these are precisely the circumstances for reflective practice…they are the constraints under which human beings inhabit a world of choice calling for judgments based on inadequate knowledge and conflicting values. These circumstances of uncertainty, contingency, and conflict call for informal reasoning rather than the strict rules of formal logic and empirical proof” (876-878).

use as a counterpoint to interview experiences

December 30, 2010

Phelps, Praxis as Wisdom in Action

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Praxis as Wisdom in Action.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, St. Louis, March 1988.

Phelps addresses the practice/theory divide in the field and argues that at best, composition should be thought as phronesis, or practical wisdom (drawing on Aristotle, Gadamer, Dewey, and Freire.) She argues that the field needs to study the teaching of composition as a process, and to take the research of composition pedagogy seriously – that a teacher interprets a situation much the way a reader interprets a text. She uses the Syracuse Writing Program’s program of professional development (which emphasizes critical reflection and teacher-research) and Stephen North and Donald Scholes.

Notes and Quotes

uses coordinating group system to explain North’s “lore” and Scholes “practical knowledge”…what became Syracuse’s “teacher talk”

reflection-in-action; practice disciplined by knowledge

Phelps, Fitting the Institution That’s There

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Fitting the Institution That’s There.” National Conference of Teachers of English, Los Angeles, November 1987.

In this 1987 NCTE presentation, Phelps describes how program design is an extension of process theory and argues for WPAs to define and see program construction as a design problem. Phelps explains how starting an independent writing program from the ground up involves working in and through chaos. She points out that writing program design has a “human element,” and that WPAs must design programs, balance costs and plan long-term goals always with the thinking of how changes and systems will affect the people working in them. She uses the first two years of the Syracuse Writing Program to explain her theory of writing program design.

Notes and Quotes

“But if teachers are taking such active roles in the Proqram, we need a model of program administration that empowers them to act on their ideas. For this reason among others we are designing a collaborative, entrepeneurial, decentralized administrative structure, cultivating leaders among the faculty of teaching assistants and part-time instructors, trying to diffuse authority and responsibility throughout the Program. Besides the intellectual and ethical justification, we need a much more professional, committed, expert faculty if we are to move the Program out into the university at large, working with other faculty, not to mention the reforms we are undertaking within our own course responsibilities.” (4)

November 19, 2010

Phelps, Mobilizing Human Resources

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Mobilizing Human Resources.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 73-96. Print.

Phelps gives a case study of “Cicero University,” a university that is at the same time shrinking its enrollment by 20% and developing a new writing program. She points out that the most glaring resource problem might seem to be financial, but in fact, the biggest challenge that this WPA faces is one of human resources – the WPA must tap into the talents and potential of the instructors and TAs of the program to pull off a revision of the curriculum. She argues that the part-time faculty instructors who worked in the program before are the WPA’s faculty – they are the ones that will either buy in or buy out of the program. The WPA in this position must work to create out of this “disparate group of people” a “community of teachers with the skills and commitment to plan the changes, adapt to them, and work together to successfully implement new goals” (83). She argues that this WPA challenge can be approached with three tasks: 1. create intellectual capital and make it accessible (the program’s knowledge base and practical expertise as represented by all members.) 2. create social capital (a social network of commmuniation and trust); 3. reorganize work roles and work processes to fit a new instructional plan and 4. determine how to fund these solutions.

Notes and Quotes

“Human resources in a literal sense may refer to the number of personnel lines or dollars you have on budget, the types of employees, or the person hours you can tap for some task. But more fundamentally they are the talents and human potential represented among people who work for or with the program. Like any resource, they can be cultivated, expanded, and deployed effeciently and ethically; or they can be squandered, misdirected, underestimated, or diminshed. Human capital is a more crucial resource than dollars, technology, or even time. By investing energy, pride, and commitment in their work, people provide the knowledge, imagination, motivation, and skill without which the program cannot use other types of resources effectively, or at all” (82).

You can’t just replace the whole corps of part-time instructors. “They are your faculty” (83) They have varing backgrounds, but you must cultivate them into a teaching community, one that proposes, implements changes. That’s your job as a leader – not to impose some theory but to allow them to build it.

Argues that you can’t just come up with a plan for yourself and then ask for the money. Program building is a dynamic process and an effective WPA has to seek out synergies.

1990s was a time of change in higher ed – change brought on by troubled economic times, shifting demographi

cs, changing technologies, weak economy, shrinking pool of undergraduate students, move to making “student centered” universities, emphasis on interdiciplinary learning and cooperation between units

build intellectual capital through professional development (87) that involves and serves everyone in the program. List of professional development options on pg 88

opportunity costs of offering professional development to different constituencies (TAs, PhDs in comp/rhet)

the importance of being transparent about information and ideas in the program

June 19, 2009

Wiley, Gleason, and Phelps, Composition in Four Keys

Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Wetherbee Phelps. Composition in Four Keys. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.

This reader is designed to introduce beginning students and scholars to the field of composition and rhetoric, and unlike other sourcebooks, is organized to create a map through which the readers can begin to draw connections between studies and scholars and begin to understand the field as a whole. The heuristic used is that of keys (drawing on Suzanne Langer) or commonplaces that connect certain strands of research and practice in the field. The four keys used are nature, art, science, and politics, and reflect those strands the editors saw emerging in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. The final fifth section of the book offers other ways of mapping and understanding the field. The keys are not exclusionary, and the editors invite readers to question how the keys were constructed and the connections between them. They keys are more than content: they show the readers how people talk about writing, what other disciplines, theories, fields, and values scholars draw on to form their understandings, and how people practice and teach writing.

Notable Notes

the hermeneutical circle – it’s hard to interpret something without a context, but you begin without any sense of position or map. The keys are supposed to help with that.

Nature – natural development of a writer, primacy of the writer, personal power and authority, writer’s voice, romanticisim and transcendental thought, study of students K-U, expressivist, Piaget, Vygotsky, internal expeirnece, self-consciousness, reflection, collaboration, personal responsibility, natural influence of a community on a writer. (Moffett, Britton, Bissex, Berthoff, Murray, Warnock, Elbow, Bruffee, Stewart, Phelps.)

Art – language as central concern, rhetoric, invention, transactional, form, style, craft of writing, choices, imitation, classical rhetoric, formal heuristics, discourse communities, discourse analysis, language can be examined as an artifact, grammar and errors as signifiers, New Rhetoric. (Corbett, Shaughnessy, Winterowd, Williams, Young, Halloran, Ede and Lunsford, Kinneavy, Porter, Coe, Lauer)

Science – inquiry, knowledge, scientific method, disciplinary identity and respect, research methods, protocol analysis, process theory, scientific studies, Cold War, federal funding for language research and education, need for a method for Open Admissions and basic writing, cognitive studies, assessment, empirical studies, ethnographies, rejection of writing products as the object of study – look at writing process instead, influence of computers and technology resaerch, cohesion research, case studies, students v. professionals writing. (Emig, Flower and Hayes, Freedman, Dyson, Hawshier, Hillocks, Haswell, Geisler, Moss, Sternglass)

Politics – a later key influenced by the social turn, postmodern, poststructuralist, neo-Marxist, feminist, literacy research, outside of the classroom, language differences, texts not separated from contexts, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, liberatory pedagogy, ESL, conditions of teaching writing, feminization of composition, liberal, materiality of writing, politics of basic writing, academic discourse as exclusion, no neutral rhetoric and language. (Rouse, Fiore and Elsasser, Rose, Bartholomae, Smitherman, Wyoming Resolution, Miller, Villanueva, Bizzell, Hairston (who critiqued the political turn))

April 6, 2009

Phelps, Turtles All the Way Down

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Turtles All the Way Down: Educating Academic Leaders.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Brown and Enos. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.

Leadership education should be an integral part of any graduate student’s program, and composition and rhetoric programs are positioned to be leaders in that movement because many of their graduates will go on to quickly assume administrative roles (WPA, writing center, WAC director.) Phelps explains that the WPA straddles the “bright line” between faculty and administration, and the way to negotiate this line is to have a positive understanding of leadership. Phelps argues for WPAs to embrace their leadership roles by recognizing power as productive, ethical, and legitimate. Power does not reside with the individual; it is a force, an action that organizations depend on for survival. Phelps advocates for practical and reflective education in leadership and explains the “administrative fellow” model she piloted at Syracuse, which drew on Lave and Wagner’s theories of situated learning to allow for legitimate peripheral practice.

Quotable Quotes

“What is needed is an ethical ideal that envisions responsible, strong leadership as a conceptual possibility, not an oxymoron.” (19)

:The authority of an administrator is not a personal attribute or possession, despite those who improperly personalize it. The administrator with integrity assimilates personal motives to the social motives of the enterprise” (25) – James Madison, for the good of the office/the institution

Notable Notes

Gertrude Himmelfarb – need to recognize the good inherent in central leadership and power; distributed, collaborative power is not always good or effective. Don’t assign gender to kinds of power

new university – professionalization, recognizing administrative work as scholarship – leads to needing more faculty as leaders

systems are leaders on top of leaders (turtles all the way down) at a variety of scales

Lave/Wagner’s theories don’t account for the necessity of continued reflection and some direct learning

three spheres of activity in professionalization – the discipline, the collegium, and the workplace – WPAs negotiate their identity in all three of these, always changing and dynamic – it is an activity system

WPAs fear power from above and their own power

Phelps, The WPA’s Dual Identity

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The WPA’s Dual Identity: Why It’s Hard to Have It Both Ways.” In The Promise and the Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2008. 262-265.

In this short response to a chapter of essays about the working conditions and constraints of WPAs, Phelps argues for an expanded view of WPA identity, one that does not equate security with tenure. A WPA is both an administrator and a faculty member, and tenure only matters in the second part. A WPA needs to understand both the perks and the ramifications of their dual identity, realizing that any WPA position, because it is built on a shifting foundation in these two different systems, must be flexible and always-changing. A WPA who embraces this dual identity and tries to find the positive synergy between being a faculty member and being an administrator is capable of great positive change – a risk worth taking.

Quotable Quotes

“While merging the best of both systems is precisely the feat we try to pull off as WPAs, to assume entitlement to them suggests (on the part of the WPA community) a failure to appreciate that in each system there are costs, constraints, and dangers directly correlated with their rewards and advantages.” (264).

“The primary calculus of risks and rewards in teh WPA role arises from this defining effort to merge basically incompatible rival systems and functions” (264).

March 31, 2009

Phelps, “Budget, Enrollment, and Workforce”

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Budget, Enrollment, and Workforce.” Exploiting Synergies: Positioning the Writing Program for the Nineties. Planning Document. The Writing Program, Syracuse University. November 1991.

This is one of a series of eight concept papers in a planning document submitted by Phelps, as Director of the Writing Program, to the new Syracuse University chancellor (Shaw) in 1991. In it, Phelps argues that the Writing Program’s budget be reconceived: that it depends on budgeted money (not variable allocations); that it is designed based on the Program’s goals (not on the categories of the old Freshman English program); that it uses people, not sections as a baseline for deciding how much money the Program receives; and that it is administered at the university level, not in the College of Arts and Sciences (because it serves the entire population.) Phelps directly ties the goals of the Program, those goals that were stated when she came to serve as director in 1986, to how the budget is constructed and administered.

Quotable Quotes

“The Writing Program recovers an unreasonably low percentage of the profit it generates over costs.”

“Since the status quo budget (no matter how increased) is conceptually organized by the categories and distribution of our teaching in the old program, the Freshman English program continues to repress our imagination through the perpetuation of its budget structures”

Notable Notes

SU was trying to cut costs and enrollment university-wide, early 1990s

make a budget that is based on planning (in this case, the number of faculty for the future grad program), not one that is reactive and scrambles together funds from a variety of sources at the last minute

look at the functions of the writing program: both teaching undergraduate courses and working consultatively in a writing center, with professional development, evaluation, TA training, university-wide projects and initiatives – all thesse, not just the teaching, need adequate funding

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