Revolution Lullabye

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

March 29, 2009

Elkins, Visual Studies

Elkins, James. Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2003.

After surveying the history of programs of departments of visual studies, as well as the current principle theorists and objects of study in the field, Elkins lays out his ten suggestions for making the field of visual studies “more difficult,”: more critical and more interdisciplinary. His argument is that many visual studies scholarship is not recognized as rigourous in the academy, an opinion that he agrees with because much of the work done is not saying anything interesting or important. He advocates in many of his suggestions that scholars look outside and beyond the normal range of study, including non-Western and historical theorists and subjects, non-art and advertising objects, and scientific studies in the vision sciences. He concludes the book with a list of eight compentencies undergraduate students should have in visual literacy, arguing for a university-wide course in visual literacy like the universally-required composition course.

Quotable Quotes

“I would like to see a visual studies that is denser with theories and strategies, more reflective about its own history, warier of existing visual theories, more attentive to neighboring and distant disciplines, more vigilant about its own sense of visuality, less predictable in its politics, and less routine in its choice of subjects” (65).

“In order for visual studies to become the field I think it can be – the field toward which it is tending – it has to become more ambitous about its purview, more demanding in its analyses, and above all more difficult” (vii)

“We are living in a deeply, increasingly, and perhaps principally visual culture” (131).

Notable Notes

EDHirsch-like astericked knowledge

principle theorists include Walter Benjamin, Foucault, Lacan, and Barthes

visual studies rose in the 1990s out of cultural studies (British) and visual culture (more American) – good programs at U of R and Irvine

use historical theorists and non-Western to look at non-Western and historical objects, get rid of always using “the Gaze”

key!! important part of visual literacy is the production of visual images. This is where actual practice meets with theory. Make this combination of analyzing and producing the norm, not an anamoly, for courses in visual literacy. It is a practice and both experiences are key to understanding (158) – there needs to be “a community of makers” (179). Connection to Wysocki and George

our culture is often trained to look at the surface, not to be challenged by visual images, not to interrogate them, spend time with them, and see them in a deep way. “Good” images today are those that can be scanned and consumed quickly.

February 9, 2009

McLeod, The Foreigner

McLeod, Susan H. “The Foreigner: WAC Directors as Agents of Change.” In Resituating Writing: Constructing and Administering Writing Programs. Eds. Joseph Janangelo and Kristine Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. 108-116.

McLeod surveys five metaphorical models for viewing the role of the WAC director, ultimately arguing that the best model is that of a change agent, a director that uses collaboration and conversation among the university-wide faculty to enact change in the college curriculum and in individual teachers’ pedagogy and teacher theories. The other four models that WAC directors often adopt – the conquerer, the diplomat, the peace corps volunteer, and the missionary – position the WAC director in a negative light, either by appearing top-down and combative, by acting like writing is the sole concern of a single department or unit (usually English), by decreasing the WAC director’s authority and effectiveness by having no budget or support, or by approaching writing instruction with a sort of moral authority, not allowing for dialogue about writing across the disciplines.

Quotable Quotes

WAC directors need “to invent their role with care as they venture into new territory”, make their “foreignness” work for them, not against them. (108)

WAC as a “quiet revolution” (look at Fulwiler) (115)

Notable Notes

Importance of securing a budget for director time release, clerical support, student support (peer tutor), and faculty workshops and follow-up for a successful writing across the curriculum program

WAC must be a faculty-owned, university-wide goal for it to be successful

Build a WAC advisory board or an all-university writing committee

Importance of an outside evaluation to get faculty support and budgetary support for a WAC program

February 3, 2009

Phelps, Matching Form to Function in Writing Program Design

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Matching Form to Function in Writing Program Design.” Talk. Michigan State University. 7 November 2002.

A writing program needs to be designed so that it finds a home between the two, often conflicting functions of writing programs: 1. the horizontally-structured undergraduate writing program that serves all departments across the university and 2. the departmental, research-oriented faculty core that provide the theoretical foundations for the pedagogical work being done. In order to do this, a writing program must be independent, controlled at a high administrative level (a department cannot effectively run a university-wide program), recognize alternate forms of scholarship by its faculty; and resist calcifying as a traditional department, because that will squelch moves towards experimentation and context-driven negotiation and redefinition. A writing program must have some flexibility because it is a dynamic entity, always changing shape and focus to meet the changing demands and circumstances of the institution and its students. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be defined, however; it just must be conceived broadly as an unique part of the institution that is always growing and experimenting, both in the classroom and in its structure and organization.

Quotable Quotes

“A university writing faculty must have a core research faculty to authorize its teaching mission” (4)

“The political effectivity of a writing program rests on its ability to be accepted and integrated within the intellectual mainstream of a university” (5) – importance of full-time, researching faculty to lead the program

“There is a fundmental mismatch between the needs, goals, and nontraditional functions of writing programs and the available forms and structures in higher education institutions for organizing and implementing them. For that reason, writing programs are a valuable irritant and provocation to examine how systmeic features of academic life can impede desired innovations” (7).

A writing program design must somehow find a way structurally to reconcile needs, features, and functions that gravitate toward one of these two poles—the complex structure and broad horizon of the whole system versus the human-size community for living and learning; the decentered, loosely coupled network and the focused core; the generalist, distributed instructional mission and the expertise that grounds it and finds its source and expression in scholarship and advanced teaching.” (11)

Notable Notes

writing program as enterprise to recognize the intellectual and programmatic nature of it (4)

expertise and generalist functions

writing programs as Pluto – are they really a discipline (is it really a planet?)

connective tissue that holds the university together (8)

importance of locating a writing program – placing it high enough administratively to have the resources and flexibility it needs.

Christopher Alexander – growing whole, design

Phelps, The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs: Catalyst, Laboratory, and Pattern for Change.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary. Eds. Richard Bullock and John Trimbur. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1991. 155-170.

Instead of focusing on what the relationship between rhet/comp and literature can be in an English department, Phelps takes a step back, widens the scope, and discusses what a independent writing program can do for the institution as a whole. Higher education is going through a multifacted crisis (the devaluing of teaching and undergraduate education due to the focus on research, the absence of community due to specialization, and the employment of under-paid, under-trained part-time and graduate teachers), but the theoretical foundations of a writing program makes it a prime candidate for a site of institutional change: the field of composition highly values quality pedagogy and undergraduate education; a writing program serves the whole institution and therefore must reach out across disciplines; and the large, diverse cohort of teachers allows for the construction of professional communities. Writing programs must confront several challenges to be viable. In addition to negotiating the local political and institutional constraints of each university, writing programs have unique budget, space, technology, labor, tenure, evaluation, and structural needs that must be administratively met in order for the writing program to be viable.

Quotable Quotes

“The most important contribution I think writing programs can make, though, with respect to higher education at large, is to exemplify the struggle to foster community in the face of the prevailing mood of skepticism, critique of all cultural institutions and their traditions, radical individualism, and loss of fellowship that troubles our colleges and universities” (167) – through community building and professional development of professors, part-time, grad students, undergraduates

“With luck, and propitious local circumstances, this situational fit enables writing programs to become a positive force for change by enacting their own logic: operating experimentally and hypothetically; nuturing a fragile sense of community in talk, text, and collaborative work; and seeking interdependencies where they can find them.” (168)

“the concrete practices of community” (167)

Notable Notes

rhetorical concept of kairos – fitting into the historical and situational context – by having writing programs lead institutional change (168) 

the field of rhetoric/composition as a model, a logic for writing programs to develop and follow

get out of the trap of quibbling over departmental structure

use Syracuse as a model

Ernest Boyer (Carnegie Foundation) – higher ed reform that Phelps bases her argument for writing programs on

Themes of the disciplines that work for institutional change:

  1. writing helps students become active learners and meaning-makers
  2. common literacy strategies adapted for diverse rhetorical situations
  3. collaborative work
  4. communicate patiently through hands-on talk and text – create a community (163)

Challenges 164-166

Writing program acts as collaborator and as a catalyst, an experimenter, for change.

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