Revolution Lullabye

December 8, 2010

Lipson and Voorheis, The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts

Lipson, Carol and Molly Voorheis. “The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts: Revising the Conditions for Part-Time Faculty at Syracuse University.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 107-131.

Lipson and Voorheis describe the new teaching culture established through the independent Syracuse Writing Program, focusing on the 1. mechanisms that were put into place that allowed part-time faculty to take leadership positions that included compensation; 2. the merit pay system that allowed for part-time teaching careers; and 3. the peer evaluation portfolio system of part-time teachers. They argue that the changes in the material conditions for part-time instructors go hand-in-hand with the cultural change in the program and at the university for valuing writing instruction – one does not occur before another; they happen in dialogue. Voorheis and Lipson argue that the Syracuse Writing Program was not just interested in changing the material conditions of its instructors; rather, the director (Phelps) worked with the members of the Program to radically shift the culture of the Writing Program and the university to one that visibly valued writing pedagogy, scholarship, and administration.

Notes and Quotes

Written 15 years after the first moves towards making the Syracuse Writing Program – after the “honeymoon” period.

The Writing Program (through the leadership of Phelps) used innovative, opportunistic ways to provide money for leadership and professional development activities, finding flexibility through packing sections to capacity and using extra ones, that were budgeted for, as release or discretionary sections (these were reigned in with the Syracuse University campus-wide budget cuts.)

In addition to working on part-time instructor working conditions in the Writing Program, there has been work towards opening up opportunties campus-wide for part-time instructors (can propose for funding, representation on the University Senate)

have not been able to create full-time instructor positions because of lawsuit potential: university faculty handbook says anyone who has taught for 6 years get tenure unless they are officially denied tenure.

“The merit awards helped established the basic values of the new teaching culture” (114).

created a 4-tier merit pay plan in the 1989-1990 school year: allowed for a sequence of advancement, identify those activities that were worthy of merit reward (115)

Introducing merit pay does create a tension: there are some who believe that all should be treated equally and others who think that those who contribute differently should be compensated differently.

Problems of the tiered merit pay plan: 1. the tiers were supposed to lead to full-time positions, which never materialized, so now they are dead-ends. 2. it takes a long time to progress, so beginning teachers are still not paid very well; 3. the merit pay increases cut into the yearly across-the-board raises, esp. those at the top of the pool – “The problem is inherent in a process bounded by a fixed salary pool that must accommodate both annual raises and merit tier upgrades” (118).

A system based on merit pay depends on evaluation (the TEC, put into place in spring 1990). This is expensive. It was redesigned years later to be sort of like tenure: once a part-time instructor passes through a certain level, they do not have to be evaluated, and the TEC does no longer include full-time faculty or adminstrative members. This new plan creates a new category of PWI: veteran intstructor, attainable after teaching in the Program for 5 years.

“The force of the new teaching culture was to emphasize the professional status of part-time faculty, and to underline their value to the program and to the profession.”

problem with coordinating groups: some of the instructors who taught in the old program saw it as top-down supervision and monitoring, not independence and professional (121-122). The structure of the coordinating groups changed to meet these concerns and needs of instructors, Program.

Suspicion: “While the program identiied these sites as generative places for the creation of a new culture, the part-time faculty viewed them through lenses ground in the old teaching culture – or in similar hierarchical environments” (121).

The teaching culture’s drawbacks are also its strenghs: it is a teaching culture (threatened by the new PhD program, which introduces a different cultural ethos); 2. it is resistant to change; 3. it relies on part-time – not full-time – positions.

peer control in evaluation

attached is the first and revised merit pay plan for PWIs


December 7, 2010

Wallace, A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response

Wallace, M. Elizabeth. “A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response to the CCCC Statement of Professional Standards.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (Oct. 1991): 350-354.

Wallace argues for the legitimacy of part-time faculty positions as a viable alternative to the traditional (male-centered) full-time academic model. Part-time positions, she argues, are good for the academy because they allow for positions for those people who cannot work full-time (due to child care or family structure obligations) or who are professionals in another field and have expertise to lend, part-time, to building writing programs. She also suggests three appendices to the statement: 1. a list of books that hinted at the broad range of theory and research regarding writing and writing pedagogy (what the field is); 2. a plea to part-time faculty to carefully consider the political implications of accepting low-paying adjunct jobs; 3. a ballad (the “I’m Just a Poor Part-timin'”) – the statement, she argues, lacks affect.

November 22, 2010

CCCC Committee on Professional Standards, A Progress Report

CCCC Committee on Professional Standards. “A Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 330-344.

In response to the 1987 Wyoming Resolution (which provisions were adopted unanimously by CCCC), CCCC established a Committee on Professional Standards, whose job was to circulate and oversee implementation of the CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards in the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing (passed in 1989 in response to the Wyoming Resolution.) This statement has been controversial, and this progress report is intended to clarify the CCCC’s position on professional standards for the postsecondary teaching of writing for the purpose of both discussion among members of the field and help in implementing the provisions of the statement and the Wyoming Resolution. This progress report outlines three recommendations to the field: 1. that CCCC follow case studies of faculty, administrators, and instructors trying to implement the Statement at their own institution; 2. that noncompliance be understood as actual resistance to change proposed at institutions; 3. that CCCC authorized a raise in dues to pay for an attorney/administrator to track the implementation of the statement. The CCCC Committee links good working conditions for teachers to good teaching and quality student education. The report argues that the treatment of writing teachers – who are denied time for research, scholarship, and pedagogical invention – is linked to the erosion of tenure, the disappearance of faculty governance, and the corporatization of the university. Thus, the poor treatment of writing instructors at many institutions should be of concern to all faculty. They argue that all teachers of writing should have access to full-time, tenured positions, and that untenured full-time positions or part-time positions should only be used as stop-gap measures as the university is working toward the conversion to tenure lines. They point out that it is the field’s job to argue for the importance of writing and good writing teachers at the university, citing that the field remains invisible to those in English departments and higher administation because the discipline doesn’t often overtly argue for its critical place in student education and many of the freshman English courses in higher education have little to no intellectual, scholarly grounding.

Notes and Quotes

problem: the unfair labor practices in the teaching of college writing are tied to 1. the position of the field at the university 2. the large percentage of women and minorities teaching writing: “the unjust class lines in the academy reproduce those of the culture at large. We do not think it is too far-fetched to describe most teachers of composition as professionally homeless persons” (336).

argues for all writing to be taught by full-time, tenure-track faculty (their ideal)

part-time positions should only constitute 10% of a institution’s writing faculty (336).

What did the Wyoming Resolution (1987) do? “The Wyoming Resolution contained three provisions: it asked for a definition of the minimum standards under which postsecondary writing teachers should be employed; it asked for the creation of some mechanism that would help teachers implement the standards on their campuses; and it asked that some means be found to enforce institutional compliance
with the standards. The Resolution called upon professional organizations to provide support for those who sought changes or reforms relevant to the teaching of writing at individual institutions.” (330).

Institutions (liberal arts, state universities, research universities, two-year colleges, etc) are funded and structured differently, and changes to the position of writing instructors must reflect the local context. But, conversations about the position of untenured and untenurable teaching assistants and part-time instructors must be had (in a way that does not jepordize their employment) with the entire teaching force, not just those who are tenured or who are tenurable.

Universities are increasingly relying on part-time instructors: tenure is drying up because the university is responding to market forces, drawing a larger percentage of their teaching labor from the pool of underpaid part-time instructors and graduate TAs.

The poor treatment of writing instructors is tied to the low regard of the field of composition and rhetoric.

March 25, 2009

Strenski, Recruiting and Retraining Experienced Teachers

Strenski, Ellen. “Recruiting and Retraining Experienced Teachers: Balancing Game Plans in an Entrepreneural Force-Field.” In Resituating Writing. Eds. Janangelo and Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1995. 82-99.

Strenski argues against the push to departmentalize writing programs by arguing that the traditional departmental model does not serve the mission of the writing program – to teach and serve students across the university. Rather, WPAs should capitalize on the opportunity of creating dynamic writing programs at the margins of the university that can act as change-agents. The tension, then, in the different populations within a writing program (part-time instructors, full-time faculty, students), can be spun into beneficial, entrepreneural energy. She uses an extended case study between two instructors – Eve (a middle-aged part-time instructor) and Adam (a young graduate student) – to show how they might begin to collaborate instead of conflict with each other. Strenski’s argument is different from many who talk about the labor conditions or the place of writing programs in the university; like Phelps, she argues that there can be productive good in the heterogeneous mix. She argues that the best writing programs come when WPAs recruit, train, and develop good teachers who hail from a variety of different teaching philosophies and methods.

Quotable Quotes

“This very marginality is the major source of energy in the writing program force-field.” (83).

“Edges can be cutting; they can be dangerous, exciting places” (83).

“An entrepreneurial model offers explanatory power and hope. It interprets the anomalous, liminal nature of a writing program as essentially dynamic, and uniquely valuable for that very energy” (85).”

“The culture of a writing program is informed primariy by the central activity of teaching (as opposed to expertise in professing a disciplinary subject), and as a result writing program instructors must be perceived by undergraduates as good teachers who care about teaching” (90).

“Any writing program is really nothing but the people we hire, retrain, and retain.” (97)

Notable Notes

a cadre of diverse teachers

ways to select teachers: interview, evaluate their responses to a sample student paper, ask for syllabi

group grading of papers is an extremely simple and valuable professional development activity (See Edward M. White Teaching)

it’s OK – and even good – to have non-tenured writing instructors

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.

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