Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Hesse, Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise

Hesse, Douglas D. “Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Practice. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002. Print. 41-58. Print.

Hesse explains how WPAs can approach the political nature of their work in a way that is productive and ethical. He describes aspects of academic politics that affect a WPA: that disciplinary knowledge or credentials aren’t as highly valued in administration as one might think, and that most decisions circulate around the debate for material resources. His chapter discusses how a WPA must act politically, keeping in mind these two principles, in four different spheres: the department, the institution, the profession, and the public.

Notable Notes

In departmental politics – 1. know how things work and how things get done, 2. write down (and publish) policies (these are more efficient, have more authority, can be used for faculty development, focuses the work of the department) , 3. Develop an ethos grounded in “expertise, competence, sensitivity to local situations, and the pursuit of the greater good” (44), 4. Write reports that have hard data about the students and faculty in the writing courses; 5. Create structured processes with timetables to get things done – these establish legitimacy and help with efficiency.

In institutional politics – institutions are usually conservative, don’t change rapidly or easily (46). Gives two examples of his own political work – one successful, one not. His advice: 1. “Have a place at the table” in discussions that are ultimately about resources by being on university-wide committees (48), 2. Know the people you’re talking with and that you’re competing with, 3. Be known in informal situations as well as formal (“Come to the parties” (49)), 4. Frame arguments in terms of resources, not just philosophy/disciplinary knowledge

In disciplinary/professional politics – 1. Know the past and present work/guidelines/statements published by the discipline’s professional organization; 2. Get involved in the organizations, network and do good work, 3. Get disciplinary organizations to sponsor your work (example of the CWPA Outcomes Statement)

In the public and larger higher ed – 1. Write for public audiences, tell the story you do instead of responding to attacks or accusations; 2. Network with people in other institutions and work together to make change; 3. Get on committees – state assessment boards, other education boards

WPAs need to know how to argue for material resources (42).

He argues that WPAs should prepare themselves to do political work by paying attention to the history of higher ed, the conversations happening in higher ed scholarship and journals.

Quotable Quotes

“Though WPAs wearing the ermine mantle of composition czar may set the curriculum for a course, they rarely can unilaterally set class sizes or faculty salaries. They need action by individuals with the official power to do so. Because the quality of a writing program depends largely on the conditions in which the program exists, and because the WPA has limited control of those situations, political action is vital” (41-42).

“For a good deal of their work, WPAs simply must be politicians – and, of course, rhetoricians.” (41).

In departments: “But beyond the program, especially in academic structures increasingly (and paradoxically) organized hierarchically with a professional managerial administration, WPAs often have to act with a decisiveness that may exceed their democratic sensibilities” (43).

“Second, WPAs must separate political outcomes from senses of their own worth. Unfavorable outcomes invite WPAs to doubt their abilities. But resources are finite, and expertise is lodged many places in the academy and culture. In a world where even Richard Nixon can be twice reborn, it makes most sense to understand your personae as content expert and as politician to be entwined but ultimately separable, each with endless opportunity for extension and application” (57).

May 26, 2011

Enos and Miller, Beyond Postprocess and Postmodernism

Enos, Theresa and Keith D. Miller; with Jill McCracken (Eds.). Beyond postprocess and postmodernism: Essays on the spaciousness of rhetoric. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum (2004).

This collection centers on a discussion of Corderian Rhetoric (Jim Corder), a rhetoric that plays between narrative, creative nonfiction, expressivism, classical rhetoric, and academic discourse, asking in various essays how this rhetoric can impact the field’s scholarship and teaching. It looks to see how the field might begin to value nonacademic, nonprofessional writing and rhetoric, including expressive writing, seeing it as something to be practiced and theorized as a legitimate way of knowing.

Corder advocates dialogic rhetoric with the goal of discussion and dialogue instead of “winning” an argument.

Quotes and Notes

A collection inspired by and dedicated to Jim Corder (“Argument as Emergence; Rhetoric as Love”); Corderian rhetoric, pushing boundaries of academic/nonacademic rhetoric, style – a combination of classical rhetoric and expressivism

“Certainly, rhetoric and composition studies is now – and perhaps has always been – a complex field characterized by agreements and tensions, as bodies of thought crash, merge, and shift like the tectonic plates of the earth’s surface” (vii)

“gentle persuasion” (ix)

Corder wrote Uses of Rhetoric, was a friend of Winterowd, Berlin, Corbett, Kinneavy, D’Angelo, Burke.

Explored ancient, modern, postmodern rhetoric, weaving them together in his own thinking.

 

Enos and Miller, Beyond Postprocess and Postmodernism

Enos, Theresa and Keith D. Miller; with Jill McCracken (Eds.). Beyond postprocess and postmodernism: Essays on the spaciousness of rhetoric. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum (2004).

This collection centers on a discussion of Corderian Rhetoric (Jim Corder), a rhetoric that plays between narrative, creative nonfiction, expressivism, classical rhetoric, and academic discourse, asking in various essays how this rhetoric can impact the field’s scholarship and teaching. It looks to see how the field might begin to value nonacademic, nonprofessional writing and rhetoric, including expressive writing, seeing it as something to be practiced and theorized as a legitimate way of knowing.

Corder advocates dialogic rhetoric with the goal of discussion and dialogue instead of “winning” an argument.

Quotes and Notes

A collection inspired by and dedicated to Jim Corder (“Argument as Emergence; Rhetoric as Love”); Corderian rhetoric, pushing boundaries of academic/nonacademic rhetoric, style – a combination of classical rhetoric and expressivism

“Certainly, rhetoric and composition studies is now – and perhaps has always been – a complex field characterized by agreements and tensions, as bodies of thought crash, merge, and shift like the tectonic plates of the earth’s surface” (vii)

“gentle persuasion” (ix)

Corder wrote Uses of Rhetoric, was a friend of Winterowd, Berlin, Corbett, Kinneavy, D’Angelo, Burke.

Explored ancient, modern, postmodern rhetoric, weaving them together in his own thinking.

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)

April 6, 2009

Enos and Borrowman, The Promise and the Perils

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

This post contains information about three different narrative essays in Section 6: Tenure, Promotion, and the WPA.

Langston, Camille. “A New WPA at a Small Private School with Large Public(ation) Expectations.” 182-190.

Langston’s story is like many other jWPA horror stories: eager to serve as WPA, she was asked in her first year to direct the program in her 2nd year. Her time, though she was supposed to focus on publication, was quickly eaten up with writing an official job description for the job (which was not recognized as a university administrative position but rather a department appointment), defending the English Department’s right to teach comp during core curriculum committee debates, and conducting a self-assessment of the program.

Peguesse, Chere L. “Fit for an Unfit Fittedness: National Writing Project Site Directors as WPA.” 190-203.

WPA positions don’t have to be internal (WPAs, WAC directors, writing center directors); Peguesse, in her personal narrative, explains how the work of a National Writing Project director is also WPA work, and like WPA work, is unrecognized by other faculty at the university as merit for tenure. She cites Burke in her title and her introduction, drawing on his argument that sometimes it is your training (in her case, focus on WPA work as internal) that becomes an incapacity for you. Her NWP work required her to coordinate with the public school system, run summer sessions, and write extensive grants (which she argued should be counted as peer-reviewed publications, but didn’t.) She also experienced a great deal of friction with the previous, untenured, part-time instructor who ran the program. She was initially denied tenure, but when she proved to the dean that her necessary publication was accepted and being printed, her dean wrote a letter that should give her tenure. She is not directing the NWP after another year, when she will train someone else.

Reid, E. Shelley. “Will Administrate for Tenure, or, Be Careful What You Ask For.” 203-211.

When hired, Reid was told her tenure case would be decided 1/3 on scholarship, 1/3 on teaching, and 1/3 on administrative work. That promise, though, was not upheld at tenure-time, because though some department members believed in it, it was not a belief held by the rest of the university faculty. She was told to couch her administrative work as pedagogical, which gutted her case for tenure.

“Handing around copies of WPA statements, smart as they are, may have no more lasting effect than passing out handbooks to first-year composition students.” (211)

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