Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Bousquet, Composition as Management Science: Toward a University without a WPA

Bousquet, Marc. “Composition as Management Science: Toward a University without a WPA.” JAC 22.3 (2002): 493-526. Print.

Bousquet argues that composition has become complacent in the larger corporate university system, citing scholarship that promotes a “pragmatist” approach to writing program administration and rejects critical theory as “idealist.” Bousquet contends that real institutional change is only possible through collective action, and he points to both history and current union movements for better working conditions and pay for graduate students and adjuncts as evidence that change emerges from the action of collective labor, not by individuals, such as “lower management” WPAs. Bousquet’s argument relies on a Marxist reading of WPA work and current WPA scholarship, and his argument is a response to Porter et al’s Braddock-winning essay about institutional change and critique. Bousquet ultimate argument is that composition (as a field) and composition teachers would be best served if WPAs stepped away from their roles as lower managers, a role in which they support and enact the interests of the managerial university. Bousquet believes that composition should look like other academic disciplines, without a lower-level “manager” (WPA) and with tenure-track faculty lines, not adjunct labor or non-tenure-track instructorships or “parafaculty.”

Notable Notes

Central question: has composition/WPA strayed too far? Has it bought into the rhetoric of university management? And central claim: that organized labor and collection action is the only way to change the status quo and problems of composition labor, not WPAs. He imagines a model without a WPA.

Sections of his argument:

The Heroic WPA

  • Argues that the field has moved away from critical lenses and “toward institutionally focused pragmatism, toward acceptance of market logic, and toward increasing collaboration with a vocational and technical model of education” (495-496).
  • Defines the “heroic WPA” as a new figure in the field, connects it to Marx’s “’special kind of wage-laborer,’” “the members of the working class whose particular labor is to directly administer the labor of other members of their class at the frontline of the extraction of surplus value” (498).
  • Labels WPAs as “lower management,” who have as much in common with workers (or more) than they do with the higher class that they might identify with. Lower management historically has not made changes: “Lower management is particularly vulnerable, highly individuated, and easily replaced” (497). Lower management often is not tracked to upper management advancement.
  • Argues that when someone becomes a member of the lower management, their class does not change (still a member of the labor class), but their loyalties change. (498)
  • Asks who the term “compositionist” (or “we”) refers to – the teachers? The WPAs? Those who teach or those who supervise/theorize? The field writ large? Who does it represent? (499)
  • Ties the emergence of the comp/rhet discipline to shifting structure in undergrad institution in the 1970s: more students with less TT faculty.

The Intricate Evasions of As: How to Be One of the Gang

  • composition is trying to be “one of the gang” in the academic institution, a respected discipline. So there’s two layered legitimacy crises in comp: one among adjunct labor, the other around WPAs/compositionists (502)
  • WPAs/composition have accepted the realities of the corporate university instead of contending them. One example he gives is FT NTT lines, which Bousquet argues is a way to get around tenure and to assert more “managerial control” over composition teaching faculty (505) – he thinkis is a step backwards to remove tenure, not a step forward. Asks why this is happening primarily in comp, not in other fields (lit?) (506-507).
  • WPAs (lower management) do not have a good track record for changing the working conditions of adjunct composition faculty. Unions and collective action do have a good track record for this. (507).
  • WPAs are more vulnerable to academic capitalism, market logic than faculty, who can resist it to some extent (508).

The Hidden Idealism of Managerial ‘Materialism’

  • One piece of evidence he cites as comp/rhet and WPA’s acceptance of managerialism and the corporate university is the emergence of “pragmatism” in WPA scholarship (509), of rejecting “ideals” for “realities” (509).
  • The pragmatist/movement point of view critiques the critical point of view for being “idealist,” but pragmatists are their own breed of idealists, accepting a managerial point of view. (511)
  • Asks why collective action, rhetoric of change by those disenfranchised, is being challenged in the academy (513)? Why has composition accepted pragmatism? Why aren’t we more skeptical? (515)

Toward a New Class Consciousness in Composition: Writing without a WPA

  • argues against the possibility of joining WPA and teacher interests, it’s impossible to combine the interests of management and labor. Sees such rhetoric as undermining collective bargaining
  • why haven’t we made composition real, tenure-track faculty?
  • Argues that WPAs should “shed” their identity as lower management – their role to “control” or administer or supervise – and to join again with their faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Despite the evident sincerity of this line of inquiry [Porter et al, Harris, Miller, Murphy, Grimm], I’m profoundly unconvinced that a management theory of agency and what I call the rhetoric of “pleasing the prince” is particularly useful-much less necessary-to the project of transforming institutions. I prefer instead a labor theory of agency and a rhetoric of solidarity, aimed at constituting, nurturing, and empowering collective action by persons in groups.” (494).

“In this context, the ‘heroism’ of the heroic WPA consists precisely in his or her capacity to represent the interests of the ruling class as the interests of the workers (teachers and students) in their charge” (499).

“Understanding this intimacy as a structural relationship requires careful examination of the possibility that the heroic narrative of disciplinary “success” for professional and managerial compositionists has depended in part on the continuing failure of the labor struggle.” (499)

“Clearly, the emergence of rhetoric and composition into some form of (marginal) respectability and (institutional-bureaucratic) validity has a great deal to do with its usefulness to upper management in its legitimating the practice of deploying a revolving labor force of graduate employees and other contingent teachers to teach writing. The discipline’s enormous usefulness to academic capitalism-in delivering cheap teaching, training a supervisory class for the cheap teachers, and producing a group of intellectuals who theorize and legitimate this scene of managed labor-has to be given at least as much credit in this expansion as the heroic efforts that Porter and his coauthors call the WP A’s “strong track record for enacting change” (614)” (500).

“In my view, the problem of composition labor’s felt exteriority to the gang of professors cannot be separated from the problem of composition management’s felt exteriority to the gang of disciplines: the two structures of feeling are inseparably related along the “degree zero” of the material specificity of composition work-which is to say, work conducted in the scene of managed para-faculty labor.” (502)

“Professional composition, in my view, will never feel like “one of the gang” of disciplines until its labor patterns are more like those in other fields. (Of course, this equivalence could easily come about by the frightening but very real possibility-evidenced by clear statistical trends-that labor patterns in other disciplines will become more like those in composition, rather than the other way around.) To put it in blunt terms, so long as composition’s discourse remains a management science– or, alternatively, until history, engineering, and philosophy are management sciences to the same extent-it is likely to fail to enjoy the status it seeks: the status of a discipline among peers.” (502-503).

Contends that WPAs have less power than they think: “However, whether they do so logically, intuitively, or from the experience of essaying numerous “rhetorical strategies” with disappointing results, most also understand that there is little they can do about the labor system, either as individuals or as administrators. Indeed, perhaps the most important realization of the administrative subjectivity is that “having” administrative power is to be subject to administrative imperatives-that is, to be individually powerless before a version of “necessity” originating from some other source.” (507-508).

“The installation of managerialism as the core subjectivity of the discipline of rhetoric and composition is therefore not so much an indicator of the field’s “success” as evidence of its particular susceptibility, the very terms of its intellectual evolution intertwined with the university’s accelerated move toward corporate partnership, executive control, and acceptance of profitability and accumulation as values in decision making.” (508).

“Pragmatist idealizations of the market conceal the human agency in the creation and maintenance of markets” (510) – the idea that people created these economies and institutions, deliberately choosing market/corporate/private sectors over public

“In all of these and most responsible materialist accounts, human agency drives history. But in the pragmatist-managerial version of materialism, collective human agencies are conspicuously absent.” (511)

“In holding our gaze on the managerialism of composition discourse, we ultimately need to ask, cui bono? Who benefits?” (513).

“Furthermore, what a large sector of composition labor (graduate employees and former graduate employees working off the tenure track) “really wants” is not to be treated as colleagues, but instead to be colleagues. Nearly every participant in the composition conversation would like to see writing instructors become “more like” faculty – to have the chance to govern, enjoy an intellectual life, develop as an instructor, and enjoy better pay, benefits, protections, and security. But this hasn’t translated into a consensus among professional and managerial compositionists that writing instructors should actually be faculty. Why not? Isn’t composition work faculty work? Or is composition’s “faculty work” the supervision of parafaculty? “ (516).

Argues for a “new class consciousness” in composition that is grounded in “movement unionism” that unites all faculty “on the common experience of selling one’s labor in order to live and on the desire – widespread in the academy, but also common in many sectors of service work – to “be productive” for society rather than capital” (517).

“…perhaps the professional and managerial compositionist can likewise shed the desire for control and embrace the reality of collective agency. Are we so sure after all that what the professional compositionist “really wants” is “more control” over people he or she must creatively “treat as colleagues”? Perhaps what the professional compositionist really wants is to lay down the “requirement” to serve as WPA instead and to become a colleague among colleagues.” (517-518).

“In order to realize the scene of lower management learning to practice “institutional critique” and the “arts of solidarity” from labor, we will eventually have to reconsider the limits to thought imposed by pragmatism and to learn once again to question the “inevitability” of the scene of managed labor to composition. In my view, composition’s best chance to contribute to a better world and to achieve disciplinary status depend on learning to write as colleagues among colleagues-a condition predicated on working toward a university without a WPA.” (518).

June 29, 2009

Veysey, The Emergence of the American University

Veysey, Laurence R. The Emergence of the American University. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1965.

Veysey’s history of the American university, which he tries to write on a middle level (not about one institution, but not oversimplified) is divided into two parts: 1. the competiting academic philosophies that shaped the American university in the second half of the 19th century and 2. the development of the university’s structure, a bureaucratic administration and the administration’s relationship to the faculty and students of the emerging university. The American university was in a crisis immediately after the Civil War: it was not a place young men went to move up the social ladder (they went to the cities to learn business, law, and medicine), and it was seen to many as an archiac institution. The available conditions at the time – the promise and potential of European universities, the presence of new capital and philanthropic giving, and a desire to keep the university as an important part of American life – helped turn the university around, so that by the 20th century, it was as influential as the Church was in the 1700s. The modern American university is a distinct system, not directly modeled after the German research university. It is an institution that is not coherent or cohesive, but its tensions allow for constant negotiation, flexibility, and vitality.

Quotable Quotes

The university administrators “might almost as easily have promoted any other sort of American enterprise.” (443).

for the faculty: “the university offered a convenient intermediate pattern of behavior, somewhere between a business career and exile” (443).

Notable Notes

four educational philosophies that competed in the late 19th century:

  1. Discipline and Piety – the old college model, concerned with the soul, manly character, mental powers, Chirstianity, study the ancient classics, discipline and codes for students, little academic freedom. This died out and was replaced by the other three models.
  2. Utility – practical education for a wide variety of fields, workshops, connection to the outside world, democracy, vocations, John Dewey, elective system, secular, applied science, Morrill Act, civil service and civic duty, progressive era
  3. Reseach – experimentation, labs, German research model (Americans changes this into specialized disciplines), professional autonomy, research for its own sake, pursuit of knowledge, skeptism, science, not concerned with undergraduate teaching.
  4. Liberal Culture – humanities in the new university, new modern classics, culture, taste, unity of all life, breadth, cultivation, character, aesthetics, Oxford and Cambridge, English models, philosophy and literature, well-rounded, humanity, Western Civ, rescue the boorish American, charismatic lecturer, successful in small colleges with research or graduate programs.

academic administrators were bureaucrats, businessmen who planned and managed the university

academic freedom – progressive era reform that allows for flexibility – move towards tolerance, a blended university that allows for eccentric intellectuals

June 23, 2009

Anderson, Prescribing the Life of the Mind

Anderson, Charles W. Prescribing the Life of the Mind. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993.

Anderson offers his critique of the contemporary American university curriculum and offers his vision of an alternative that would bring the disciplines together under the pursuit of practical reason. Influenced by Dewey, Anderson believes that a unifying force in the university – one that brings together the disciplines – can only be taught through and by the disciplines, and so it is the duty of the faculty to create a core curriculum that threads together the different areas of intellectual and practical inquiry in a way that students will find coherent and meaningful. The free elective system, marked by a core curriculum where students take a wide variety of courses that don’t necessarily speak to each other, puts the onus on the students to find the coherence when they don’t even have a sense of the map of the breadth of university knowledge. Practical reason is characterized by ongoing, purpose-driven inquiry, self-reflexive thinking and the application of judgment – of deciding that some things are valuable and some things are not.

Quotable Quotes

Practical reason: “the activity of examinign a pattern of practice, and criticizing it, analytically, reflectively, with an eye to its improvement. Practical reason is a matter of distinguishing excellence and error. It also implies mastery, the effort to do something as well as it can be done” (97).

“The aim is not to fit the individual to the disciplines but to organize the disciplines so as to develop the capabilities of the individual” (90) – how does this speak to Latour?

“If we are going to teach something greater, we are going to have to teach it through the disciplines” (88) – the disciplines are instruments toward a larger goal

Practical reason: “being acutely self-conscious about our ideas of the purpose of a human enterprise and about the practices we institute to achieve them.” (4)

Notable Notes

the core of Anderson’s curriculum: civilization (how did we come to think as we do?); science (a theoretical framework for scientific reasoning); the human situation (social sciences); the humanities (beauty, form and function, elegant design, subtle ends, cultivate judgment); and practical studies (applied fields – what do you do and why do you do it.) all meant to go deep, to find connections and meanings

practical reason as an organizing principle teaches judgment – it is complex, not simple relativism or inclusiveness

goal of American university education – traditionally open to all to cultivate practical reason necessary for democracy; the goal should be not an all-knowing individual but a particular kind of craftsman, worker who brings good practice to a field, who has a particular habit of mind

contemporary university: teaches only a certain kind of critical, detached, observant knowledge

tension between the public function of the university (to educate the public) and the private function (inquiry by academics)

June 11, 2009

Newman, The Idea of a University

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1947.

First published in 1873, this is the collection of lectures and addresses Newman gave to an Irish Catholic audience in the early 1850s, when he was commissioned to argue for the establishment of an Irish Catholic university in Dublin, a modern, secular university that included theology as a course of study but not a universal frame of study, a university that would provide a Oxford- or Cambridge-level education. His campaign failed, but his articulation of an educational mission – one that would educate the entire person in a liberal tradition – has influenced educational thought since. Full, holistic, liberal education cultivates a habit of mind that lasts a lifetime, with the acquisition of knowledge, not professional training, as the ultimate end. The university’s mission, according to Newman, was not the creation of knowledge, but the dissemination and teaching of it.

Quotable Quotes

liberal education will cultivate a habit of mind with attributes of “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom” (90).

“A University is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill” (128).

“If a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other. Works indeed of genius fall under no art; heroic minds come under no rule; a University is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations. It does not promise a generation of Aristotles or Newtons, of Napoleons or Washingtons, of Raphaels or Shakespeares, though such miracles of nature it has before now constrained within its precincts. Nor it is content on the other hand with forming the critic or the experimentalist, the economist or the engineer, though such too it includes within its scope. But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end…It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant” (157)

Notable Notes

the importance of educated laity

connections to Freire, Shor, process

May 20, 2009

Elder, What Works for Me

Elder, Dana C. “What Works for Me: The Cost of Plagiarism.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 31.1 (Sept 2003) 83-84.

Preventing plagiarism should be a university-level concern, and Elder explains two ways her institution (Eastern Washington University) is taking on plagiarism. First, students who fail due to academic reasons have a special “XF” on their transcripts that will serve as a signal to other institutions and future employers. Second, all conclusions of academic integrity cases at the university are recorded, and if a student has three violations, they are banned from the campus for life. This guarantees that an instructor’s determinations of academic integrity issues matter and have real consequences to students who repeatedly plagiarize or cheat.

February 17, 2009

Phelps, Institutional Invention

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Institutional Invention: (How) Is It Possible?” In Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention. Eds. Janet M. Atwill and Janice M. Lauer. Knoxville: The U of Tennessee P, 2002.

Phelps argues that institutions can be sites of invention in two ways: they themselves can constantly restructure their ideals, governance, finances, and curriculum, and second, universities can consciously structure itself so that it provides a creative environment for all those who work there. Her argument is situated in the move on many American colleges and universities to restructure to a more bueracratic system, one where administrators and staff instead of the traditional full-time faculty have governance over the institution. In this type of system, distributed leadership is key.Writing program administrators need to realize the power of seizing leadership in order to make institutional change within their own programs to provide environments for creativity, collaboration, and community among the students, faculty, staff, and part-time instructors. Phelps looks at the institution through a system approach, showing how it is both chaotic/creative and structured simulatenously.

Quotable Quotes

University as a creative system: The “refreshing focus on the inventiveness of a human system rather than exclusively on its function of distributing and controlling power” (80).

“I find it fruitful to juxtapose an nderstanding creativity as systemic wiht a concept of sufficiently complex systems as inherently creative. Together they provide a new metaphorical frame that helps us define problems and generate specific questions about institutional invention.” (79)

Notable Notes

combining practical experience of WPA and a rhetorician’s knowledge of understanding how to react and communicate in changing circumstances. The importance of rhetoric in institutional leadership

further questions to explore at the end of the article

goals: develop concept of invention as emergent phenomenon of institutions; how this concept changes how we think of leadership; the barriers to institutional invention in institutions today (71)

practical art of institutional invention (71)

February 16, 2009

Strickland, How to Compose a Capitalist

Strickland, Donna. “How to Compose a Capitalist: The Predicament of Required Writing in a Free Market Curriculum.” Composition Forum 9:1 (Spring 1998) 25-38.

Composition’s low status in the academy is not due to its pedagogical orientation. Rather, composition’s status is a result of the fact that it is the sole required course in a university designed around the concept of liberalism and free choice, a concept that indoctrinates students in the ideologies of individualism and competition that are necessary for a capitalist society. Strickland traces composition’s contradictory place in the academy to the pedagogical reform movements at Harvard under Charles Eliot, who instated the modern liberal arts elective curriculum. Composition served as required cultural capital that students must secure before moving on to become independent capitalist men, ready to interact with their instructors in a business relationship and become a free-thinking man able to own himself and his own choices. Thus, modern progressive composition pedagogies that attempt to subvert the system by giving students the freedom to choose their own topics are actually just making composition like the rest of the university, where student choice through the major and elective system dictates the curriculum.

Quotable Quotes

Progressive composition pedagogies are really “reinscribing rather than resisting the dominant discourse of the university, that of the free capitalist individual” (36).

“The new university set itself up as a place to construct free, self-motivated, white male subjects, the very subjects necessary for the logic of American industrial capitalism” (26).

Notable Notes

choice is self-regulation, free students, self-governing, competition-driven

good English is necessary cultural capital for which to enter the system to have wealth, power, and the language of capitalism

women are not fit nor strong enough for the rigors of the capitalist liberal arts curriculum

teacher serves as a “model of masculine ability” (33)

February 15, 2009

Marsh, Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education

Marsh, Bill. Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education. Albany, SUNY Press, 2007.

Instead of focusing on student motivation for plagiarism, this book looks at student plagiarism in higher education from a broader historical and theoretical perspective, investigating the evolution and ideologies of plagiarism prevention and internet-based plagiarism detection software. These software systems simultaneously cling to a model of authorship, reading, and writing that does not take into account the networked literacies and composing practices of today’s students and use these literacies and practices to detect improper source use by copying, scanning, and keeping student texts for their own profit. Both plagiarism and plagiarism detection are authoring activities with particular perspectives, with software detection services operating out of disciplinary, power, rehabilitation, control, and enforcement motives (43). The networked computer challenges these assumptions and calls for a new way of thinking about student research, writing, and reading.

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism detection services “already use remediation techniques to produce student texts toward the formulation of safe, healthy, and legitmate writing subjects. In today’s institutions of higher learning, the time may have come to turn those techniques around – literally and figuratively – to better serve today’s post-media, multimodal learners” (156)

“I approach the plagiarism problem as an instance of social and political contestion mader real in the micromechanisms of composition pedagogy, intellectual property law, and, more recently, computer technology” (7)

The new media composer has new conventions and techniques that “revamp or remediate a range of authoring practices not altogether lost in our new media age” (148)

“Plagiarism detection services promise more generally to correct, or right, errant information flows while also teaching the prevailing lessons of modern authorship and intellectual property in the digital age” (4).

Notable Notes

The software which reads for “high-value” words remediates reading practices and calls to mind alchemy, “a new methodology for determining (reading for) authorial orginality.” Through ordering information, it orders human beings. (151)


Chapter 1: plagiarism scandals of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, compare to how student plagiarizers who don’t have power are treated.
Chapter 2: definitions of plagiarism as failed authorship and the stealing of intellectual property; plagiarism detection software as a form of social control, 2 wrongs of plagiarism: stealing property and appropriating authorial originality
Chapter 3: early 20th century plagiarism prevention and management of student writing, 1913 U of Minnesota instructions
Chapter 4: Renaissance understandings of plagiarism through metaphors of alchemy and literary change
Chapter 5: inadequacy of handbooks to teach techniques for avoiding plagiarism because they rely on genre and insider knowledge
Chapter 6: inquiry as essential to late 20th century composition pedagogy, Ballenger’s research paper, influcenced by Montaigne
Chapter 7: internet plagiarism detection services (4 of them), how they regulate student writing and draw upon the alchemical, rhetorical, and legal traditions of plagiarism prevention
Chapter 8: how this all plays out with the networked internet and computer as a compositional tool

Research paper: contradictary because it requires students to create something original in an exercise that requires them to recognize the originality of other authors and to cite it in their papers. (88)

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

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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