Revolution Lullabye

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

November 17, 2010

Kearns and Turner, Negotiated Independence

Kearns, Judith, and Brian Turner. “Negotiated Independence: How a Canadian Writing Program Became a Centre.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 21.1 (Fall 1997): 31-45. Print.

The authors explain the transition of the University of Winnipeg’s writing program (housed in English) to a stand-alone interdisciplinary Centre for Academic Writing. There are some interesting connections to Syracuse: this move to create a stand-alone writing program/department was happening at the same time (late 1980s, early 1990s), the importance of internal and external reviews to define the necessity of a stand-alone program, making writing a more visible, all-university affair. They argue that the development of independent writing programs depends on some sort of faculty and administrative support at a time where there is a perceived need and available funding.

Notes and Quotes 

on methodology, the use of case study in WPA scholarship: “Readers of Writing Program Administration will be acquainted with histories of new and emerging writing programs (Kirsch; Little) and with accounts of changes to existing programs (Bean and Ramage, Howard, Little and Rose, Rankin). Reading evaluations of program effectiveness (Olds; McMullen and Wellman) and more theoretical articles (Gale, Carson, Gunner), many of us have focused particular attention on the case studies used as illustrations. Each of these narratives gives WPAs an opportunity not merely to place our own experiences in a broader context but also to learn strategies for strengthening programs and improving their institutional status. As Carol Hartzog has pointed out, these accounts also make a formative contribution to the field as a whole, insofar as efforts to develop sound programs parallel the larger effort to consolidate the identity of composition as a field…In a sense, then, histories of particular programs help to construct an emerging discipline” (31).

Canadian context: virtually no PhDs in rhet/comp, tough immigration laws for Americans to come on over.

Before becoming independent: They explain the difficulties both of implementing a common curriculum using instructors with no background in composition and rhetoric pedagogy and of running the program without formal administrative or voting procedures: things were done on an ad hoc basis by committee.

Went through a five-year review, begun by a self-study (connections to the Syracuse WP). This was happening at the same time as Syracuse (five-year review was in 1993). Had both an internal review and an external review. Both recommended that the program be made autonomous.

The review – conducted internally by the university who were not aware of composition pedagogy and theory – focused only on practical matters, but did note that a common curriculum stifled instructors and allowing students to opt out of writing made writing seem punitive (36).

The faculty from the Centre are in a precarious position for tenure because they are not in a traditional department.

November 15, 2010

Enos, Keeping (in) Our Places, Keeping Our Two Faces

Enos, Theresa. “Keeping (in) Our Places, Keeping Our Two Faces.” .” 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. 247-252. Print.

Enos questions whether creating stand-alone departments of writing is really beneficial to the people in the field and the place of the discipline at the institution. She argues that the independent programs that seem to be emerging focus primarily on the more practical, career-oriented aspects of composition instead of on the histories, theories, and practices of rhetoric, a move she argues both hurts composition and rhetoric’s place in the university (perpetuates its identity as a skills-based discipline instead of a “metadiscipline” with both theory and methodology) and does not prepare undergraduates for graduate level work in rhetoric and composition. She wonders if the departmentalization of independent writing departments might further marginalize writing at the university.

Notes and Quotes

She points out that most independent programs and departments are housed in small liberal arts colleges and some 4-year universities; there are very few in comprehensive or research universities (she notes Syracuse as a primary exception to this, and also Syracuse, she points out, is one of the few stand-alone departments that houses a PhD program.)

Will PhDs in rhetoric/composition – or “composition specialists” as they’ll no doubt be named – be turned out only to become permanent non-tenure-track instructors?” (252)

O’Neill and Schendel, Locating Writing Programs in Research Universities

O’Neill, Peggy and Ellen Schendel. “Locating Writing Programs in Research Universities.” 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. 186-211. Print.

The authors, after describing the results from a survey of AAU writing programs, focus on two independent programs: Harvard’s Expository Writing Program, which has always been an independent program since its founding in 1872, and Syracuse’s Writing Program. Through their description of these two programs, O’Neill and Schendel point out some conclusions about the implications of independent writing programs and departments. The independence of the programs – especially those without departmental status – does not solve the labor issue, as most are still staffed with contingent labor and are placed outside the knowledge-making structure that is so highly valued by the university. They draw on Richard Miller’s and Kurt Spellmeyer’s arguments – that instead of working to departmentalize composition and insist that all composition courses be taught by tenure-track faculty (an impossible demand), composition should work on improving the lives of its instructors by embracing the realities of the emerging corporate structure of the university and focusing on its service role.

Notes and Quotes

“If the university is changing, as many people argue, focusing on traditional academic rewards may not best serve compositionists or their students” (209).

The Harvard program has recently been overhauled by its director Nancy Sommers, who has 1. improved the position and pay of the instructors, now called preceptors and considered experts of academic writing, 2. introduced a WAC program with a WID emphasis, 3. strengthened the research orientation of the program, and 4. moved to its own building in the center of campus.  The Writing Program at Harvard has its own budget, several endowments, including an endowed directorship (though the director is not a faculty member with tenure.)

Syracuse description is placed in other notes. Focus on the role of full-time faculty with tenure in the program, full-time administrative staff, flexibility of program/departmental status, how the CCR program affects the identity of the program.

At large universities, writing programs are usually housed in English, directed by an English faculty member, and staffed by English grad students and adjunct instructors.

Found these independent programs: Columbia (mid-1990s), Cornell (1982), Duke (1994, 2000), Harvard (1872), Princeton (1991), University of Colorado (1987), University of Rochester (1997), Yale (1977). Found these independent departments (maybe not in name, but because of status, tenured faculty, etc.): University of Iowa Dept. of Rhetoric (1988), Michigan State Dept. of American Thought and Language (1946), University of Minnesota St. Paul Dept. of Rhetoric, Syracuse University Writing Program (1986). There are others who did not respond to the survey.

All have different reasons, institutional histories of why they are independent programs, but many are to centralize writing instruction, build interdisciplinary support for WAC, need a bigger administrative structure than can usually be allowed within a program.

“What ‘counts’ as a writing program is very different from institution to institution” (193).

Composition research/administration seems to be much more valued than composition teaching (hire tenure-track to administer; adjuncts to teach.)

“Tenure, although it is under attack and revision at many institutions, still confers privilege, status, resources, and benefits on those who receive it. Not having tenure clearly marks writing instructors, administrators, and scholars as somehow outside the academic mainstream of the university hierarchy” (194).

« Previous Page

Blog at