Revolution Lullabye

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)

February 10, 2009

L’Eplattenier and Mastrangelo, Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration

L’Eplattenier, Barbara and Lisa Mastrangelo. “Why Administrative Histories?” In Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline. Eds. Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo. West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2004. xvii-xxvi.

This collection of histories of early writing program administrators, their communities, and the fledging WPA discipline and community casts a new light on the history of composition: it places it in a larger, political institutional context and shows how composition programs were developed, run, and seen by the rest of the university. Administrative histories are often lost: administrators, burdened by the pressing immediate day-to-day tasks they must do, often did not publish about their work, and their administrative documents are either stored in an inaccessible place or have been lost/destroyed because they do not seem, at the surface, to have any scholarly value. The collection is divided into three parts. The first, individuals, traces the history of the development of the WPA position through the careers of individual people in the early 20th century who served as de-facto WPAs at their institution. The second, communities, shows how communities of early WPAs and their teaching  communities came together to form support and intellectual networks. The final, discipline, explains how the WPA community worked to professionalize and gain recognition and rewards from the university administration and faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Recognized or ignored, titled or untitled, appreciated or unappreciated, paid or unpaid – someone classified students, assigned teachers, worried about standards, and did all the other administrative tasks inherent to writing programs. Someone, much earlier than 1976, functioned as a WPA.” (xix)

Notable Notes

many early WPAs were women, untenured, did not have advanced degrees, learned on the job, made significant reforms at their institutions about teacher workload and class sizes

19th and 20th century, Gertrude Buck

Blog at