Revolution Lullabye

June 23, 2015

Kinney, Fellowship for the Ring: A Defense of Critical Administration in the Corporate University

Kinney, Kelly. “Fellowship for the Ring: A Defense of Critical Administration in the Corporate University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 32.3 (Spring 2009): 37-48. Print.

Kinney enters the debate about creating full-time non-tenure-track lines in composition and argues that in writing programs throughout the U.S., these full-time lines, though not on the “faculty ladder,” do result in less exploitation of composition faculty. She uses her own experience as an ABD fellow in the Grand Valley State University’s Department of Writing (an independent writing program) to argue that these kinds of positions can not only give composition instructors greater stability and better wages and benefits but also can help create institutional environments that support and value the teaching of writing.

Kinney resists arguments made by Sledd, Bousquet, and others, who saw WPAs who created non-tenure-track composition lines as either complacent with the larger corporate university structure or as eroding the possibility of more tenure-lines. Kinney is pragmatic in her analysis, arguing that WPAs have the power to negotiate for better models for employing composition faculty.

Notable Notes

Discusses the debate about creating full-time non-tenure-track lines in composition: is it creating “boss compositionists,” with just a few tenured WPAs overseeing large masses of teachers, or is it a way that WPAs are trying to rectify the poor wages and working conditions of part-time, adjunct contingent labor?

Cites the major debate between James Sledd and Joseph Harris in CCC (September 2001), uses it to frame the discussion around non-tenure-track composition appointments. In this essay Kinney is responding to Sledd, who saw WPAs as complacent in higher administration’s plans to exploit composition labor.

Her admin work as a doctoral student slowed down her progress toward degree, ran out of her stipend. At the end of her 4th year she became a fellow at GVSU

Discusses the problem of putting pressure on grad students to professionalize, diversify, which slows down their progress (and many never finish). She argues though that her fellowship helped her on the job market and gave her a decent wage as she finished her PhD.

Defines “situated leadership” (a term coined by Sullivan et al), “a concept which reinterprets the ethic of service and helps theorize active ways of applying institutional critique.” WPAs should be rhetorical in how they administrate (40) Kinney argues that he WPAs at GVSU practiced “situated leadership” – reflective, critical analysis of situations, understanding the local context and situatedness.

The Department of Writing at GVSU had 2 kinds of FT NTT positions that had good wages and benefits: “the real improvements in work life for composition instructors are not to be underestimated” (41). One kind was a fellow for ABDs, MFAs, and PhDs. Fellows had conference support and had schedules to allow for scholarship, no service obligations. The second line was Affiliate Faculty positions – again, good wages, renewable 3-year contracts

This Department of Writing is independent of the English Department, and so was able to hire instructors who wanted to teach writing.

Key concept to her argument: the commitment to writing and composition, both the teaching and the field

Argues that FT NTT lines are a step up for composition instructors, who historically have been some of the most marginalized and vulnerable contingent faculty, rejects the “preoccupation with tenure lines,” saying that this position does not help these faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Although always influenced by institutional constraints, WPAs can be powerful advocates for traditionally exploited writing instructors” (38).

“I found administrative work politically empowering. It gave me a sneak peak into the mechanisms of university bureaucracy, allowed me to see how incremental change was possible, and taught me how I might become an agent in institutional reform” (39).

“Critique is slow to effect change, and often neglects institution-specific exigencies.” (40).

“Through their commitment to the teaching of writing as a legitimate academic pursuit—a commitment that necessitated creating quality working conditions for all writing instructors—Grand Valley’s WPAs were able to attract and maintain a stable, experienced, and well-credentialed staff of composition faculty, committed pedagogues eager to engage in innovative practices such as directed self-placement, multi-grader portfolio assessment, and the development of an undergraduate writing major” (43).

“When ladder faculty ignore their non-tenure-track colleagues by single-mindedly campaigning for tenure-track positions, exploitation ensues.” (44)

makes the point that negotiation is necessary, utopia is not possible with academic labor unions. Compromise is the name of the game:

“Although some equate all forms of administration with a dance with the devil—and of course there’s an undeniably romantic appeal to such an equation and dismissal—most people involved with the labor movement understand that negotiation is at the heart of collective struggle. As we move toward better working conditions for composition instructors, we must continue to negotiate with the corporate university” (45)

“Perhaps the biggest professional compensation I received at Grand Valley, then, was not the solid wages and scholarly status I earned as a Composition Fellow, but the administrative imagination to envision better working conditions for all writing instructors, but particularly adjunct workers. Because of the time I’ve spent in a department that fosters equitable working conditions, I have recognized the power of administrative agency, and the empowering potential of WPA work” (45) – the real gift of her position as fellow at GVSU

Wants to “work together to realize alternative labor possibilities” (46).

September 4, 2012

Penrose, Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession

Penrose, Ann M. “Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession: Expertise, Autonomy, Community in Composition Teaching.” WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 108-126.

Penrose analyzes the factors that constitute professional identity – dynamic expertise, autonomy and authority, and participation in a professional community – and argues that this definition of a professional could be a new way WPAs can articulate the goals they have for their non-tenure-track instructors and for improving their instructors’ material working conditions.

Penrose argues that the fractured nature of the field and the work of composition instructors – that the field, though broadly coherent, can look very different through the vantage points of sub-specialties, individual research agendas, and composition curricula and programs – leads to non-tenure-track composition instructors feeling like they don’t belong in the professional composition community.  Penrose calls on WPAs to make concerted, continual efforts to cultivate a professional composition community for their non-tenure-track instructors and graduate TAs, calling the instructors’ attention to the ways they are building their multifaceted professional identites, shared language, and common values.

Penrose argues that having a vision of what a professional composition instructor is will help in WPAs arguments for offering professional development and improving instructors’ working conditions.

Notable Notes

looks at research in what makes a professional and a professional community in history, sociology, higher education

even composition programs all founded on the WPA outcomes can look widely different

professional development can seem coercive – as a way to regulate, to supervise – not as a continued process of shared learning. They can be disruptive to autonomy and authority. (116)

studies show that high levels of professional identity among K-12 teachers lead to greater student learning (110).

trend from the autonomous professional (shut my classroom door) to the collaborative professional from the 1980s and beyond (111)

current pressures in politics to deprofessionalize education, to turn it away from an authoritative community that regulates itself, has the danger of making teaching an amateur enterprise, where teachers implement and reproduce but do not create or add to the knowledge base of the community (111)

definition of profession (112): specialized expert with dynamic knowledge base, has rights and privileges, and member of a social community with shared languages, values

Quotable Quotes

“The concept of professional identity is particularly intriguing in our field, where staffing practices intersect with disciplinary indeterminacy to create a teaching community comprising professionals with widely varying preparation, knowledge, philosophical commitments, and disciplinary allegiances.” (109)

“The diversity of perspectives that we value in theory and entertain in our disciplinary scholarship becomes complicated in the applied contexts of FYC programs, where contingent faculty are often hired to further others’ agendas rather than their own.” (109-110).

“Professional identities are not simply a matter of assigned status or recognition but self-images that influence behavior – determining, for example, where we seek our professional knowledge and to whom we consider ourselves accountable” (112)

“True professionals do not simply possess a body of knowledge but engage in continuing professional development and actively contribute to the community’s knowledge base” (113).

“Professions are dynamic social groups. Being a professional is not a matter of being free from community decisions but being part of them; not just of acquiring the profession’s knowledge but of contributing to it; not of working in isolation but of engaging with colleagues. Clearly we are aiming not for one of these identities – expert, autonomous agent, community member – but for all of them” (120).

“Understanding professionalism as collaborative provides useful perspective on the question of expertise, for it shifts attention from knowledge as static to knowledge as responsive and evolving” (120).

“Composition experts are identified not by the possession of a finite body of knowledge but by a rhetorical understanding that motivates them to assess, apply, and adapt their knowledge and develop new expertise as needed to meet teaching challenges in varied contexts” (121).

December 7, 2010

Wyche-Smith and Rose, One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality

Wyche-Smith, Susan and Shirley K Rose. “One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality: A Guide to Personal and Political Action.” College Composition and Communication 41.3 (1990): 318-325. Print.

Wyche-Smith and Rose, recognizing that the conditions outlined by the CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing and the actual working conditions of writing teachers at American colleges and universities seem far apart and almost incompatible, list one hundred local, institutional ways writing teachers, tenured professors, non-tenured instructors, and WPAs can work to make the Wyoming Resolution a reality. The list is organized by actor: first things students can do; then things composition instructors can do; then things a part-time faculty member can do; things a graduate teaching assistant can do; then things a writing-program and writing-center administrator can do; things department heads can do; things deans can do; things professional organizations can do; things editors of professional journals can do.

Notes and Quotes

Wyoming Resolution drafted by writing teachers at a conference in Laramie, Wyoming. It addressed the working conditions of writing teachers in college and argued that their unprofessional treatment had an impact on students’ education. The resolution was endorsed by CCCC in 1987, which appointed the Committee on Professional Standards for Quality Education, which then issued the Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing in 1989.

What’s interesting to me is the organization of this hierarchy: it assumes a writing program model built with WPAs managing TAs and part-time instructors. There’s no departmental structure, full-time faculty roles here.

December 3, 2010

Tuman, Unfinished Business

Tuman, Myron C. “Unfinished Business: Coming to Terms with the Wyoming Resolution.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 356-365. Print.

Tuman points to three unresolved issues in the Wyoming Resolution: 1. How do you both help those who currently teach composition – often without training or scholarly preparation – and increase the professionalism of the discipline and its teaching positions? 2. What constitutes professionalism for college writing teachers?(an academic or a practicioner model) and 3. How can vague promises of reform be made concrete into actual, doable systems and processes? He argues that the Wyoming Resolution “has been to place us on a headlong course toward becoming a two-tiered profession” – one with academic faculty managers and practicioner-teachers – because it will be far easier for the academy to improve the working conditions of the practicioners than change the entrenched academic tenure system. Not accepting the second-tier practicioner instructors means restructuring how writing is taught at the university, including perhaps giving up the first-year writing requirement because TAs and full-time faculty cannot possibly teach the numerous sections required.

Notes and Quotes

requiring composition instructors to have advanced training or degrees does not always work in the interest of the often local instructors who work in these part-time positions who do not and cannot compete nationally for tenure-line jobs.

“Thus, an unexpected outcome of reform has been the prospect of current instructors losing their positions, a far cry in the minds of many instructors from the better treatment they seemed originally promised” (357).

What does it mean to be a professional college writing teacher – do they need to do scholarship and research like faculty or are they practicioner-specialists, attending conferences like those in law and other practicioner fields but not do a lot of research. There needs to be a decision and then a structure put into place that adequately rewards and evaluates these positions – perhaps a “parallel but fully-equal pat of promotion and professional standing for practitioners” (359).

The practicioner idea is appealing because it will allow these teachers to continue teaching multiple sections of composition, whereas converting them to academic faculty positions would result in lower teaching loads, needing to hire more people to teach.

“As a result of these first two conditions [a need to staff small sections of lower-division courses and a desire by faculty to teach upper-division courses and have lower course loads], research institutions are under constant pressure to create (and, if eliminated, to re-create) a second-tier, ad hoc teaching faculty, one not protected by normal tenure provisions – in other words, the very situation the Wyoming Resolution is trying to redress (359-360).

Robinson, The CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards: A (Partly) Dissenting View

Robinson, William S. “The CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards: A (Partly) Dissenting View.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 345-350.

Robinson, who contends that writing teachers lack adequate training and professional development, argues that the CCCC Statements needs to “argue as forcefully for improved professionalism in the field as it does for improved status and working conditions” (345). Robinson claims that part of the low status of writing teachers come from their lack of training and knowledge about the field of rhetoric and composition, and in order to have a more professional, scholarly, and respected standing in the academy, they need to work to obtain the disciplinary knowledge they need in order to be writing specialists and experts.

Notes and Quotes

“But in addition to the injustices wrought upon many of us, injustices are wrought upon the students in composition classes taught by teachers who do not know their business. These teachers in turn are produced by English departments that do not hire and place in leadership positions persons genuinely qualified in composition or that hire a token person to whom no real authority will ever be given” (348).

How can you demand better treatment of your faculty when they are not considered professionals because they lack training and preparation for what they teach?

What is successful teaching? How is someone assessed on it? How is someone trained to do it?

December 1, 2010

I’m Just a Poor Part-Timin’ Teacher

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“I’m Just a Poor Part-Timin’ Teacher.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 355.

A song written to the tune of “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” It draws on the ethos and pathos common of the 1960s civil rights/anti-war movement, very Peter, Paul, and Mary. The teacher is dedicated to her students, wants to work with them on their writing and finds great satisfaction from her work with them, but she must work at multiple institutions without benefits, security, or much pay.

“And yet I know my students need me/And yet I know I give my all./This is the work that I was trained for/Though I face losing it each fall.”

“I’m just a poor part-timin’ teacher/A readin’ essays until dawn/And the voices of my students/Rise from the page they draw me on/I want to hear those struggling voices/I want to hear them all my years – /But not if all my work in grad school/Makes my profession volunteer.”

November 30, 2010

Crain, A Comment on ‘The Wyoming Conference Resolution’

Crain, Jeanie C. “A Comment on ‘The Wyoming Conference Resolution: Opposing Unfair Salaries and Working Conditions for Post-Secondary Teachers of Writing.’” College English 50.1 (1988): 96-99. Print.

Crain gives her personal account of a part-time instructor: teaching multiple sections at multiple institutions for little pay and no job security. Her narrative shows how the problems addressed in the Wyoming Resolution are enacted in one person’s life.

November 16, 2010

CCCC Committee on Part-time/Adjunct Issues, Report on the Coalition on the Academic Workforce

CCCC Committee on Part-time/Adjunct Issues. “Report on the Coalition on the Academic Workforce/CCCC Survey of Faculty in Freestanding Writing Programs for Fall 1999.” College Composition and Communication 53.2 (December 2001): 336-348. Print.

A 1999 survey of 51 freestanding writing programs in the US (only 21 responded) showed stark differences in the treatment and working conditions of part-time non-tenure-track instructors and full-time non-tenure-track instructors. Part-time non-tenure-track instructors received less pay, less access to private office and computer space, less professional development support and funding, and less access to institutional benefits (health insurance.) The report argues that 1. more needs to be done to bridge the gap between these two types of instructors 2. working conditions need to be improved for both types of instructors and 3. more research needs to be done that connects the quality of classroom instruction to the treatment and positioning of the instructor at the institution.

Notes and Quotes

Improve working conditions by converting part-time positions to full-time instructorships and/or unionization

what instructors make (esp. part-time) is not a livable wage, below the poverty line.

November 15, 2010

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).

November 11, 2010

Hindman, Learning as We G(r)o(w)

Hindman, Jane E. “Learning as We G(r)o(w): Strategizing the Lessons of a Fledging Rhetoric and Writing Studies Department.” 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. 107-129. Print.

Hindman argues that stand-alone departments of writing will not resolve the deep labor issues present in the teaching of undergraduate composition. The hierarchal structures present in the university which separate classes of workers through binaries (teaching v. research; practice v. theory) are pervasive throughout the entire institution. Only institutional practices can resolve material issues, which she argues should include creating a class of full-time, teaching-intensive positions that would replace the part-time lecturer and adjunct positions that form the bulk of the underpaid labor at universities.  HIndman warns that a stand-alone department is not a utopian condition for either the full-time composition and rhetoric faculty or the part-time instructors and graduate assistants who work in it. Hindman uses her own stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University to explain strategies and ways an independent writing program can challenge the hierarchal structure that the institution is framed around. This stand-alone department was established in the fall of 1993, through a merger of the composition faculty from English with the Academic Skills Center program, and consisted of one chair, four full-time faculty, thirty lecturers, and sixty graduate assistants. Hindman claims that the administrative load of running a university-wide writing program – and developing an independent department’s own programs – results in a change for the worst in working conditions for full-time composition faculty and for the lecturers because, with how the program was structured by upper administration, the lecturers did not have the same kind of job security as they had previously.

Notes and Quotes

“A proposal that includes a specific labor plan for lecturing faculty – addressing such issues as renewable contracts and permanent status, opportunity for merit awards, adequate office space – has a better chance to counteract the rigid and entrenched hierarchy of the academy’s work force” (126).

 “Neither English departments nor “MLA-like” power structures nor our own individual ambition for job security or position is solely or even collectively responsible for academia’s persistent caste system and co-optive processes. The multitiered work force, as indeed the process of co-option itself, is a predictable outcome of the academy’s institutionally sanctioned hierarchy” (109).

“In actuality, however, this dream of independence has been less than liberating for many. Some argue that the status of the profession has improved at the expense of the material working conditions of many professionals. While the discipline of composition studies has apparently survived its legitimation crises, the expertise and authority of a majority of its practitioners are persistently and willfully ignored on a massive, institutional scale” (107).

Uses Joseph Harris (2000) to talk about “comp droids” and James Sledd to talk about “boss compositionist”

She addresses the argument that the Wyoming Resolution has been co-opted by CCCC to focus on improving the status of the discipline, create tenure-track jobs for PhD holders – stepped away from the non-tenure-track labor issue.

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