Learn about Studies in Writing and Rhetoric – From The Very People Who Make It Run – At C’s in Houston

Studies in Writing and Rhetoric (SWR) has long been an important scholarly series in our field. It’s importance, however, has been made possible by the SWR authors and Editorial Board members. If you want to learn more about SWR (and possibly publish with the series) , what better way to understand its goals and commitments then by listening to the very people who make it run. All their talks at this C’s in Houston 2016 are listed below.

I hope you will take time to visit their sessions. If you have any questions about SWR, please feel free to write me.

Steve Parks, Incoming SWR Editor


Sessions with SWR Authors/Board Members

April 6, 2016

Howard Tinberg, Cindy Selfe. RNF 2016 Research Network Forum at CCCC. 9am-5pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon A/B, Level Two

Donna Strickland, W.01 “Mindful Writing: Taking Action toward a More Balanced Writing Life.” 9am-5pm, Hilton Room 335A, Level Three

Ellen Cushman, W.02 “Leadership in Action: A Workshop for Heads, Directors, WPAs and Future Faculty Leaders.” 9am-5pm, Hilton Room 335B, Level Three

Asao Inoue, MW.04 “Repurposing Assessment: Valuing Student Actions via Course Contracts.” 9am-12:30pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon C, Level Two

Deborah H. Holdstein, MW.06 “Consulting for Writing Programs: Developing Effective Practices.” 9am-12:30pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon B, Level Two

Kyle D. Stedman, MW.14 “Critical Soundplay: An Audio Composing Workshop.” 9:30am-1pm, Hilton Room 336A, Level Three

Steve Parks, AW.04 “Writing Democracy 2016. Documenting Our Place in History: The Political Turn, Part II.” 1:30-5pm, GRB Room 360AD, Level Three

Geneva Smitherman, AW.14 “Language and Lived Experience as Strategies for Writing and Coalition Building within a New Rhetoric of Difference.” 1:30-5pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon D, Level Two

Rhea Estelle Lathan & Jessica Restaino, CWS “Performing Feminist Action: Microworkshops and Mentoring Tables Hosted by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” 6:30-8:30pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon A, Level Two


April 7, 2016

Krista Ratcliffe, A.17 “Beyond Common Ground: Listening Rhetorically as a Framework for Action in a Digital Story Project.” 10:30-11:45am, GRB Room 351A, Level Three

Joe Moxley, A.26 “Taking Action on Intellectual Property with Open Educational Resources.” 10:30-11:45am, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon D, Level Two

Beth Daniell, A.27 “Teaching Writing as Rhetorical Action in Schools and Colleges.” 10:30-11:45am, Hilton Grand Ballroom L, Level Four

Howard Tinberg, B.38 “Response in Action: Negotiating the Intentions of Students, Teachers, and Peer Reviewers.” 12:15-1:30pm. GRB Room 351B, Level Three.

Kelly Ritter, B.05 “Histories of Action: Revisiting Composition’s Past to Understand Composition’s Present.” 12:15-1:40pm, GRB Room 351E, Level Three

Charlotte Hogg, C.01 “Taking Action to Build and Improve Writing Programs.” 1:45-3pm, Hilton Room 327, Level Three

Deborah H. Holdstein & Jacqueline Rhodes, C.26 “The Legacy of Textual Carnivals.” 1:45-3pm, Hilton Grand Ballroom I, Level Four

Krista Ratcliffe, Asao Inoue & Victor Villanueva, D.03 “Antiracist Classroom Practices: Enacting Socially Just Agendas.” 3:15-4:30pm. Hilton Room 335A, Level Three

Jacqueline Rhodes, E.03 “Calling You In: Queer Worldmaking and Rhetorical Action.” 4:45-6pm, Hilton Room 335A, Level Three

Nedra Reynolds, E.30 “ELI Review as Strategic Action.” 4:45-6pm, GRB Room 340B, Level Three

Paula Mathieu, Ellen Cushman & Steve Parks, E.40 “Does It Matter: Assessing Our Role as Agents of Social Change.” 4:45-6pm. Hilton Grand Ballroom L, Level Four

Howard Tinberg, E.36 “Remembering Kent: CCCC Chairs’ Tribute.” 4:45-6pm. Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon C, Level Two


April 8, 2016

Krista Ratcliffe, F.01 “Writing Feminism: Negotiating for Action across Public Spheres.” 8-9:15am, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon D, Level Two

Jessica Restaino, F.06 “Beyond the Workshop: Experiments in Big Comp.” 8-9:15am, Hilton Room 335A, Level Three

Kim Donehower & Beth Daniell, F.16 “Everyday Authors and Acts of Writing.” 8-9:15am, Hilton Room 336A, Level Three

Howard Tinberg, G.01 “The Purposes of Required Writing?” 9:30-10:45am, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon A, Level Two

Cindy Selfe, G.06 “Long-term Research Collaborations: Strategy, Identity, Failure, and Moves Toward Future Action.” 9:30-10:45am, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon E, Level Two

Jay Jordan, G.07 “Action Research, Active Reflection: Interrogating the Threshold Concepts of Teaching First-Year Writing.” 9:30-10:45am, Hilton Room 335B, Level Three

Asao Inoue, G.19 “Uncovering the Hidden: Composition Scholarship as Language Activism.” 9:30-10:45am, GRB Room 351C, Level Three

Anna Plemons, G.23 “Decolonizing Retention: Indigenous Methodologies, SRTOL, and Contrastive Rhetoric in Composition Pedagogy and Program Design.” 9:30-10:45am, GRB Room 351A, Level Three

Ellen Cushman, G.33 “Composing Activist Historiographies.” 9:30-10:45am, Hilton Room 343a, Level Three

Deborah H. Holdstein & Kelly Ritter, H.18 “New Thoughts on Writing and First-Language Teaching.” 11am-12:15pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon B, Level Two

Donna Strickland, H.26 “Breathe, Move, and Write: Embodied Thinking Creates Engaged Writers.” 11am-12:15pm, GRB Room 351C, Level Three

Asao Inoue, I.04 “Resocializing Writing Assessment: Articulating Social Justice Perspectives in Writing Assessment Practice.” 12:30-1:45pm, Hilton Grand Ballroom L, Level Four

Paula Mathieu, I.09 “Do the Right Thing: Ethics as Classroom Action.” 12:30-1:45pm, GRB Room 340B, Level Three

Beth Daniell, I.01 “The Company We Keep: Taking Action with Partners in the Study of Religion and Rhetoric.” 12:30-1:45pm, GRB Room 340A, Level Three

Kim Donehower, I.11 “Re-Reading Appalachia: Literacy, Place, and Cultural Resistance.” 12:30-1:45pm, Hilton Room 336A, Level Three

Vershawn Young, Stephanie Kerschbaum & Victor Villanueva, I.27 “Negotiating Interactions around Difference: Identity and Responsibility in Communities, Workplaces, and Classrooms.” 12:30-1:45pm, Hilton Grand Ballroom I, Level Four

Krista Ratcliffe, I.32 “Feminist Action for Women Writing Program Administrators: Movements for Change in the Academy.” 12:30-1:45pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas, Salon B, Level Two

Frankie Condon, K.21 “Reclaiming Rhetorics of Resistance in the 21st Century.” 3:30-4:45pm, GRB Room 351A, Level Three

Jean-Paul Nadeau & Howard Tinberg, K.35 “Enacting Knowledge Transfer at the Community College: Three Case Studies of Writing Transfer across Disciplines and Programs.” 3:30-4:45pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon A, Level Two

Victor Villanueva, Anna Plemons, Lauren Rosenberg, Stephanie Kerschbaum, Deborah H. Holdstein. SWR BOOK SERIES EVENT: K.06 “Publishing in CCCC’s Studies in Writing and Rhetoric.” 3:30pm-4:45pm, Hilton Room 335C, Level Three

Donna Strickland, FSIG.14 Contemplative Writing Pedagogies Special Interest Group (SIG), 6:30-7:30pm, Hilton Room 337A, Level Three

Rhonda Grego, FSIG.21 Studio PLUS Special Interest Group (SIG), 6:30-7:30pm, Hilton Room 336B, Level Three

Stephanie Kerschbaum, MTG Committee on Disability Issues, 6:30-8:30pm, Hilton Room 326, Level Three

 April 9, 2016

Paul Lynch, L.06 “Redefining and Reimagining the Religious within and beyond the Writing Classroom.” 9:30am-10:45pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon C, Level Two

Rhea Estelle Lathan, L.28 “Growing #digital Communities: The Tools, the Prison, and the Writing Classroom.” 9:30-10:45am, GRB Room 351D, Level Three

Jay Jordan, MTG Committee on Second Language writing. 9:30am-12pm, Hilton Room 331, Level Three

Jay Jordan, M.06 “ReWorking Boundaries of Language and Discipline: Translingual Theory, Second Language Writing, Comparative Rhetorics, and Transnational Research.” 11am-12:15pm, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon B, Level Two

Jonathan Alexander, L.23 “Political literacy in Composition: Critical Pedagogy, Multiple Voices, or Activism?” 9:30-10:45am, GRB Room 361A, Level Three

Krista Ratcliffe, L.24 “Interrogating Digitized Whiteness: Renderings of Whiteness in Mediated Writing Spaces.” 9:30-10:45am, Hilton Ballroom of the Americas Salon D, Level Two

Lauren Rosenberg, M.01 “Fostering ‘Rhetorical Researchers’ and Developing Information Literacy through FYC Instructor/Library Collaboration.” 11am-12:15pm, Hilton Room 332, Level Three


Shameless Plug for My New Textbook

Writing Communities

Steve Parks, Syracuse University

 BBD October 2016

Est. 500 pages, paperback

Make the community your classroom

Writing Communities is an exciting new reader that connects students to neighborhoods and writing courses to communities. Part One introduces students to academic reading and writing skills and prompts them to examine how their communities influence their writing. Part Two then shows students how their academic reading and writing skills can serve as a bridge into working—and producing writing—with the community. The text promotes involvement in and advocacy of social issues such as education, housing, and cultural justice, and assignments provide students with opportunities to put concepts into practice, including setting up community writing groups, public events, and publications. A rich variety of readings ranging from excerpts from educational scholarship to poetry and personal narratives help show students the myriad ways in which writing works in the world.

The collaborative skills students learn from Writing Communities prepares them for any work they may take on—in any community they may be a part of—for the rest of their lives.


Part One: Reading and Writing Communities provides a vocabulary for discussing the relationship between academic reading and writing, prompts students to reflect on their own community values and the values expected of them at college, and discusses how such work relates to community literacy practices.

 Part Two: Collaboration and Publishing demonstrates how the academic concepts discussed in Part One can be built upon to develop both campus and community-based projects and publications. These collaborative skills are meant to be used immediately in the course of a class, but they will be valuable to students outside of academia.

 Engaging, diverse readings provide an opportunity for sustained interaction with texts that move across the academic/community boundaries. Carefully chosen excerpts from leading scholars such as Nedra Reynolds, David Bartholomae, Paula Mathieu, and Gloria Anzaldúa appear alongside personal narratives from publications such as n+1 and Pro(se)letariets, providing both an introduction to literacy theories and real-world insights on how writing can work for public good.

 A variety of writing assignments and sequences facilitates complete engagement with the text:

  • “Checkpoints” throughout the text ask students to reflect on—and write about—how the instruction of the text relates to their own background and community values.
  • End-of-chapter discussion questions ask students to engage with each other to analyze the concepts of the text.
  • Post-reading questions for every selection ask students to relate the selections to the larger discussions of the text.
  • “Writing with Communities” projects at the end of each reading chapter provide ideas and opportunities for larger projects they can undertake outside the classroom—either on their campus or in their larger community.

An appendix of key terms helps students to gain a rich sense of the concepts deployed throughout the book.


Preface for Instructors

A Letter to Students: “The First Assignment”

 Part 1: Reading and Writing Communities

 Chapter 1 Reading Strategies and Intellectual Communities

Writing Prompt: “Strange Angels”

What is An Intellectual?

Becoming an Intellectual

Checkpoint: Changing Communities

How to Read Like an Intellectual

Traditional Reading Strategies

Asking Why the Reading Was Assigned

Reading for Purpose

Reading for Evidence

Reading for Audience

Note-Taking Strategies


Sample Student Annotations

Keeping a Reading Journal

Forming a Reading Group

Organic Reading Strategies

Listening to Everyday Speech

Recognizing Community Theories

Recognizing Community Insights

Recognizing Community Solutions

Making Connections

Double-Entry Journal

Audio Blog

Community Archives

Sample Student Annotations

Rundown: Strategies for Reading

Discussion Questions and Activities

Chapter 2 Academic and Community Discourse

Writing Prompt: “Lessons Learned”

What is Academic Discourse?

Checkpoint: Inventing Discourse

Research Communities



Checkpoint: Identifying Discourse Communities

Joining the Community

Checkpoint: Bringing Voices Together

Writing Like an Intellectual

Establishing a Research Focus

Organizing Research Materials

Understanding Your Research Community

Participating in the Research Community

The Writing Process




Final Editing

Sample Intellectual Strategies

Bridging Academic Communities

Rundown: Strategies for Research and Writing

Discussion Questions and Activities

 Chapter 3 Writing Education: Moving from Home to College Communities

Antonio Gramsci

On Intellectuals

David Bartholomae

From Inventing the University

Andrew Delbanco

College: Who Went? Who Goes? Who Pays?

Various Authors

Excerpts from Pro(se)letariets           

Harry Boyte and Elizabeth Hollander

Wingspread Declaration on the Civic Responsibilities of Research Universities      

Writing with Communities: Projects

Project 1: Evidence of Intellectuals

Project 2: Writing across the Curriculum (and Beyond)

Project 3: What Was (and Is) Your College

Project 4: Performing Community

Project 5: The Students’ Right to Their Own Language

Project 6: The Forgotten Bottom Remembered

 Chapter 4 Writing Classrooms: Discovering Writing within the Classroom Communities

Gerald Graff

The Problem Problem and Other Oddities of Academic Discourse

Carmen Kynard

From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cypher

Chris Wilkey

Engaging Community Literacy through the Rhetorical Work of Education

Writing with Communities: Projects

Project 1: Crossing Boundaries

Project 2: Hush Harbors

Project 3: A Community of Classrooms

Project 4: Community Voices

Project 5: A Community of Intellectuals

Project 6: Activist Scholars


Part 2: Collaboration and Publishing

 Chapter 5 Community Partnerships

Writing Prompt: “Intersections”

Getting Started

Checkpoint: Finding Your Place

Checkpoint: Intruding

Learning about the Community

Researching the Neighborhood

Checkpoint: For Better or Worse

Engaging with Residents

“Story of Self” Workshop

Understanding Your Role in the Community Partnership

Defining Your Role

Limited Involvement

Sustained Involvement

Transformative Involvement

Rundown: Strategies for Community Partnerships

Discussion Questions and Activities

 Chapter 6 Establishing Community Writing Groups

Writing Prompt: “The Writing Machine”

Adams College: A Case Study for Community Writing Groups

Initiating Public School Partnerships

Creating a Tutoring Program in Schools

Using Writing Prompts

Responding to Student Writing

Creating a Multiple-Location Writing Project

Writing Prompts for Classroom Purposes

Checkpoint: Reading and Responding

Connecting to the Community

Fill in the Blank

Video Responses

Community Leaders

Connecting to College Students

Student Organizations as Respondents

Attracting Social Media Responses

Student Leaders

Connecting to College Administrators and Faculty



Conducting Interviews: Frameworks and Strategies

Sponsoring Community Dialogue

The Mechanics of a Community Writing Group

Establishing a Writing Group

Holding an Opening Meeting

Meeting Place

Ground Rules

Reading Work in Groups

Criticism and Feedback

Your Role as a Student

Public Readings

Working for Publication

Rundown: Strategies for Community Writing Groups

Discussion Questions and Activities

 Chapter 7 Community Events and Community Publishing                                          

Writing Prompt: “Coming Home”

Creating a Community Event

Working Closely with Your Community Partner

Setting Goals and Work Plans for the Event

Writing Prompts

Open Mic

Public Readings

Organization Tables

Kids’ Station

Volunteer Table



Checkpoint: Asking for Approval

Creating a Community Publication

Setting Publication Goals

Fundraising to Meet Goals

Generating Writing for the Publication

Permission to Print


Editorial Decision-Making

The Question of Standard English

Print Publishing Considerations

Creating Book Files

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and Barcodes

Print on Demand

Printing Timeframe


Book Launch

A Final Note on Adams College

Rundown: Community Events and Community Publishing

Discussion Questions and Activities

 Chapter 8 Writing Place: Mapping Yourself Onto Local, National, and International Communities

Nedra Reynolds

Reading Landscapes and Walking the Streets and Maps of the Everyday: Habitual Pathways and Contested Places         

Paula Mathieu

Writing in the Streets

Jesus Villicana Lopez

I Left Moroleon at Daybreak, with Great Sadness

Writing with Communities: Projects

Project 1: Listening to the Voice of Experience

Project 2: Becoming Visible

Project 3: Performing Citizenship

Project 4: From Our Eyes: A Community Tourbook

Project 5: Crossing Borders: A Community Publication

Project 6: Building Community

 Chapter 9 Writing Networks: Creating Links On and Off-Line

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler

The Whole Is Great

James Paul Gee and Elizabeth R. Hayes

New Kinds of People and Relationships

Matt Mason

The Tao of Pirates


About Wikileaks

Writing with Communities: Projects

Project 1: A University Wikileaks

Project 2: A Gaming Classroom

Project 3: Media Networks

Project 4: Networking Action

Project 5: Literate Lives

Project 6: Pirate Radio

 Chapter 10     Writing Identity: Moving in and across Boundaries

Wesley Yang

The Face of Seung-Hui Cho

Stacey Waite

Excerpts from Butch Geography

Gloria Anzaldúa

Tlilli, Tlapalli/The Path of the Red and Black Ink and La Consciencia de le Mestizo/Towards a New Consciousness

Jonathan Alexander

Queer Theory for Straight Students

Writing with Communities: Projects

Project 1: Bodily Encounters

Project 2: The Student Body

Project 3: Beyond Singular Identity Politics

Project 4: A Communal Body

Project 5: “This Is the Body of A…”

Project 6: Coming Together

 Appendix of Key Terms



Support Mark McBeth – Sign On

Please take a moment, read this important letter from Carmen Kynard, and support Mark McBeth.


March 27, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing this letter to solicit your support of my appeal to President Travis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice who recently denied Mark McBeth’s promotion to full professor. I am using this moment to help the administration understand and take seriously the scholarship of composition-rhetoric studies and hope you will sponsor my narrative. I am submitting a direct letter to President Travis along with this one. At the close of this document, I am listing the names of chairs and exemplars of the Conference of College Composition and Communication (CCCC), CWPA leaders, faculty who have greatly influenced us at CUNY in the Mina Shaughnessy Speaker Series, CUNY leaders, and labor leaders in the field. I hope you will agree to have your name listed here.

Let me now take a moment to give you an overview of McBeth’s impact as a researcher and scholar, all of which (described below) I am also communicating to President Travis.

As a scholar today who is immersed in areas of composition-rhetoric and cultural studies, I connect to McBeth’s scholarship. Given his work on queer theory and mine in race and Africana studies, we share scholarly interests related to the intersections of cultural studies, literacy, education, and pedagogy. Alongside serving as the president of the Queer Caucus, a special interest group at CCCC, since 2010, McBeth has influenced the field’s scholarship and thinking with his book and seven articles/book chapters related specifically to queer theory (these are in addition to WPA publications, addressed later). Scholars who work at the nexus of these disciplines in composition-rhetoric all know and meet McBeth across a broad range of venues: reading his published essays, watching his research presentations, revising their work based on his reviews as an editorial board member in the field’s most prestigious journals, receiving acceptances as McBeth is a conference organizer in many of the field’s national and local research conferences, and networking at the various talks by scholars visiting CUNY campuses that he has helped to organize. In short, if your scholarship crosses with cultural studies, critical theory, and composition-rhetoric, then you know who Mark McBeth is and what he does! The range in which his scholarship makes its mark is even more extensive, however, marking him as an undeniable leader in the field. The impact of Mark McBeth on the scholarly disciplines of Queer Studies, Composition and Rhetoric and Writing Progam Administration is demonstrated by the varied and multiple scholarly intersections I have had with McBeth in my own career.

As a graduate student and Founders Fellow at New York University, I first met McBeth when I was part of the CUNY project linking high school teachers and CUNY faculty, Looking Both Ways (LBW). I met McBeth because he was interested in the writings and projects that I was developing, works that he would refer to in the book project that he developed for the program. My first memory is of him challenging CUNY administration about LBW and the kind of research methodologies that would produce a text that could have impact on the larger field. He was my researcher-practitioner model when I too became a facilitator for the program. He also modeled for me methods for pushing the boundaries of composition research and the best practices to which it is related.

As an assistant professor directing a secondary urban education program at Rutgers University-Newark, I looked from afar as McBeth built a new writing curriculum at John Jay College. Given McBeth’s knowledge of and experiences with literacies and composition studies across secondary and post-secondary research areas, it was only natural for me to stay abreast of the writing curriculum here. As a teacher educator at the time, I was all too clear that designing a curriculum and leading teachers to implement it are hardly the same thing. While it is certainly common knowledge at John Jay College that McBeth initiated our current writing program, planting the seeds for First Year Writing (FYW), Writing Across the Curriculum, and a modernized Writing Center, what might not be as clear is that his colleagues across the country also know him in this capacity.

Next, as an advanced assistant professor at St. John University directing a FYW program in an Institute for Writing Studies, I watched how McBeth was merging research and teaching, the main focus of the Institute in which I worked. When I decided that I wanted to leave administration, return to the classroom, and work at a public institution, John Jay College’s Writing Program was a main attraction because it has managed to accomplish what few other public colleges have done: create an innovative program based on authentic writing and composing for large numbers of young people whose educational histories have rarely empowered them. While there are certainly other institutions in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area that can boast a large working class, culturally diverse student population, including the previous colleges where I have worked, this is the only such public institution that has moved beyond what educational theorists call the Civil Rights issue of this moment in schooling: moving beyond “minimal competency” literacy via basic skills and drills (see and read Gary’s Orfield’s American Educational Research Association/AERA 2013 Brown Lecture in Education Research). That John Jay has managed to do this is no small feat. Given the widespread knowledge of McBeth’s contribution in building the writing curriculum here, it is imperative that we not merely see him as the original administrator and/or designer of the writing program; he is the author of it. That McBeth has authored a program here with such minimal resources, has performed so many leadership roles in the field’s organizations, and has maintained a scholarly presence in journals and conferences is nothing short of amazing.[1] John Jay College has managed to realize, in many ways, the kind of vision that Adam Banks, current chair of the Conference of College Composition and Communication, discusses in relation to the possibilities of contemporary writing programs in his very recent 2015 Chair’s Address.[2]

As a new WPA, I was also reading McBeth’s scholarship about assessment, classrooms, and WPA. His authoring of WPA here at John Jay coincides with his print publications in the field; those publications direct programs across the country, thus, making him an author of WPA not merely at John Jay but at other institutions. His most current CV celebrates more than ten research articles and book chapters about assessment, curriculum development, labor, archival educational histories, diversity, and basic writing. He has consistently presented new research related to WPA, rhetoric, and the teaching of writing for twenty years at Conference of College Composition and Communication. He has presented new work at the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) Conference for the past six years; he has also presented heavily at regional conferences as well as the Conference on Lavender Languages and Linguistics.   This constant presence in the field’s professional organizations and in the field’s composition journals has propelled his leadership with multiple editorial boards and professional executive boards including: Peitho, College Composition and Communication, Council of Writing Program Administrators (which he also co-chaired in 2012), Writing Program Administration, Present Tense, College English, Journal of Basic Writing, Journal of Information Fluency.

Later, as an associate professor of English and a WPA in the tri-state area, I incorporated the Mina Shaughnessy Speaker Series, another project McBeth was connected to, with the graduate courses I was teaching. Similarly, the WPA Metropolitan Affiliate, a consortium which McBeth co-founded, was also a central point of focus in my graduate English courses. Both of these projects, in fact, provided a space for McBeth’s and my own graduate students to meet one another and build collegial relationships. These are central spaces in which current theories and practices related to composition-rhetoric are exchanged in the tri-state area. Thus, McBeth has been instrumental in not only helping to run many of the field’s organizations but also in establishing them.

Alongside my desire to contextualize the nature of my attraction to the writing program here at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I am also contending that McBeth’s WPA work is authored. More than twenty years ago, the Portland Resolution,[3] a position/policy statement accepted at the 1992 meeting of the Conference of College Composition and Communication (CCCC), was designed to help WPAs develop quality writing programs at their institutions and articulate the terrain of their work. Central to that development was the understanding that WPA work is scholarship, especially since WPA now has its own journals, conference, extant literature, and subdivisions within composition studies. It is exactly for these reasons that WPA is marked differently from other administrative assignments that college faculty engage. Connection to the published scholarship and professional organizations of WPA are considered key means for understanding how to run progressive writing programs; implementing such programs is the intellectual work. Thus, for more than twenty years now, the field has demanded and institutions have, in turn, honored processes where the evaluation of WPAs comply with what the 1992 Portland Resolution requests: “consider the important scholarly contributions each WPA makes by virtue of designing, developing, and implementing a writing program.”   Five years prior to the Portland Resolution, the 1987 CCCC position statement, “Scholarship in Composition: Guidelines for Faculty, Deans, and Department Chairs”[4] argued that, in the interest of equity, administrative contributions of WPAs be given significant weight during tenure with outside evaluators who would study the WPA’s administrative service. It seems safe to say that the widespread recognition and acceptance of these terms of WPA work underlies why we are in a position to award writing programs with certificates of excellence today,[5] which our writing program has won. With so many international campuses using the best writing programs in the United States as their example, the international impact of this award is also now obvious. It is also worth noting here that McBeth has also ensured that the writing program’s success today is not solely contingent upon his own charismatic leadership, a central concern in much WPA scholarship. McBeth’s original curriculum and his leadership in faculty searches has resulted in a thriving programmatic culture carried forward by the now tireless WPA work of Tim McCormack and Tara Pauliny. McBeth’s authoring, thus, encompassed long-range purpose and planning.

I have shared McBeth’s profile here as a way to substantiate my request for your support. In this way, I am hoping that you will not view my concerns as my own individualist or personal issues but as part of a larger (and historical) discussion in our discipline.

Thank you for this opportunity to advocate so strongly for such an important colleague and for your support of the writing program and composition-rhetoric studies at John Jay College.


Carmen Kynard, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English

[1] Tenure track faculty have a 4/3 teaching load at John Jay College with 27 students in a composition class. Lecturers carry a 5/4 load. Though WPAs have a 9-month faculty contract, they work through the summer without a stipend, pay increase, or release time, though outcomes assessment is mandated of them. We have minimal travel funds, no research start-up funds, and no merit pay increases. A little more than 60% of our courses are taught by adjuncts. As a point of comparison, as a first year writing director at St. John’s University where I was previously employed, I received a 10K stipend in addition to my annual salary, an administrative assistant who I shared with only the WAC director (who had the same package as I did), 4K per year in travel funds. My load was 1/1 and my class size was 20. Because the charter of that college included the commitment to always enroll at least 40% of students who have lived below the poverty line and offer them full scholarships (which came with the college’s ranking as the third most diverse college in the country), new labor arrangements for first year writing (FYW) faculty were created as part of a social justice focus. This meant that 75% of our FYW faculty had full-time, tenure track lines and taught three classes per semester, received 2K in travel funds, and 2K for membership fees to professional organizations and journals (there was a commitment on the part of the university to further increase the number of full-time faculty teaching). As should go without saying here, working with faculty who are not overwhelmed with their work lessens the emotional and psychic toll on a WPA. I have taken the time to offer these details to stress that this labor arrangement for the St John’s directors was in no way competitive with what many first year writing directors, for instance, across the country receive today, especially at research universities. What made my previous college distinct was the percentage of full-time faculty teaching FYW courses only. I hope to communicate a sense of weight here: I chose to leave the resources that I have detailed here in order to work at what I saw as the only program in the tri-state area committed to progressive literacy teaching to racially diverse, working class, first-generation college students.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYt3swrnvwU

[3] See http://www.wpacouncil.org/positions/portlandres.html

[4] See http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/scholarshipincomp

[5] http://www.ncte.org/cccc/awards/writingprogramcert

White Leather and the Beginning Writer


In Language Online: Investigating Digital Texts and Practices, by David Barton and Carmen Lee, they write about a research strategy where individuals are asked to write a technology biography. The goal is to help both the writer and the researchers understand how the affordances of technology were introduced and taken up in an individual’s life. Over the past year, I have moved more actively into digital spaces, both in terms of writing and pedagogy, and I have been struck how my initial introduction to technology has shaped my current use. As a way to understand how to navigate those historical influences in a Web 2.0+ landscape, I thought it might be useful to write a series of biographical episodes of the many technologies that I have encountered, used, discarded, and picked up. While no one piece would capture it all, taken collectively it might help frame what values and practices I would want to bring into the world of Web 2.0+ as well as which might be discarded.

Here it is probably important to begin by noting the most prestigious writing platform available in my home as a child was a typewriter that “wrote cursive.” It was stored in a white leather case, often placed on the top shelf of closet safely out of reach. When there was a special report or letter to be written, the typewriter would be taken down and placed on the dining room table. Surrounding the typewriter would be several pieces of lined white paper, written on with ballpoint pens, sometimes with red ink noting places to revise or correct. Perhaps further back would be notecards, in pencil, with quotes or citations. At the greatest distance would be books, borrowed from the library, often slightly dated or completed outdated. Later in life, I would come to understand the real library of intellectual materials was being built by my father, book by book, as he read at night, storing each book upstairs in our attic. With the exception of the lamp shining illuminating the scene, there was not electronic component to this event.

It is cliché to note that in such an environment, the time and labor associated with revision was real – as was the expense of the writing materials. This positioned the writer as someone who had to take material circumstances into account when piecing together the parts of a paper, from the time to get to the library to the time to type (and correct) the final version. These moments also represented a kind of interruption in the family dynamic since parents had to support much of labor needed to get materials into the house, get space in the house to write. My original sense of writing technologies then was wrapped up in the political economy in which I existed – though clearly I would never frame it that was a child. And I think as I move to research, write, and engage in the digital, it is the materiality of the labor which produces the digital, the material resources of time/labor/expense required to get the digital in working class homes, and the interruption such digital technologies bring into the discursive and literacy practices in the home that interests me the most.

For instance, I am currently working on a project studying how an international alliance of working class writers initially used print technology to both articulate a common political vision for their communities and then, as Web 1.0/2.0/2.0+ emerged, struggled to find ways to use that technology for similar goals. Here the question is “Can literacy practices goals premised upon print culture seamlessly translate into new technologies? What affordances does this new technology offer to such work?” Indeed, it was these questions that led to my reading Barton/Lee’s book, mentioned above.

To return to biography for one final moment: It was not until college that I became aware that a cursive typewriter, while seemingly professional within a working-class home, was not actually an appropriate technology for the professional world of the academy. In my first year in college, I was hired to work in the office of New Student Programs, which was charged with organizing Freshman Orientation. Once in a professional office, I discovered that “real” typewriters that had a metallic “ball” that spun as you struck the keys. This “new technology” not only allowed someone to type quicker, it also allowed you to replace the ball, choosing different fonts for different occasions. It also sat on a metal cart, allowing it to be wheeled over to the person who needed to use it. No white leather case, but a plastic cover covered it at night. It was all very utilitarian, speaking of labor, not style; corporate business not personal expression.

Behind the final cubicle, there was also a computer, seemingly small then but would no doubt be considered large today. It was off limits, the person working it keeping to himself. It would be almost a year before I was to have any working relationship to that machine, but in shifting to the new typewriter, I could already see that my sense of writing, of the writer, was going to be profoundly altered.



The Campus, THE General Body, and the Meaning of Democracy

I want to begin by expressing my strong support for the goals of THE General Body. I believe they are advocating for programs and policies that speak to the strongest ideals of a university. I hope the university community will join them in their efforts.
I want to address, however, one specific criticism that has been made against THE General Body. In reading responses to the decision by the students involved to stage a sit-in at Crouse-Hines, I have repeatedly found that their actions are portrayed as immature and outside the norm of civil debate. As such, their actions are somehow insulting to the traditions of Syracuse University.
Clearly one of the goals of a university education is to learn how to effectively engage in civil debate. And when all parties are seen as equal, when there is a deliberative space that allows all concerns to be spoken, civil debate should be the primary engine of social change.  The history of the United States, however, consistently demonstrates that such open deliberative space is not always present. At such moments, uncivil actions are staged to puncture through a seeming consensus to provide an avenue for the excluded to have a platform to be heard. To this end, sit-ins, protests, and boycotts have been used by progressives, conservatives, students, professors, community members, and others to demonstrate how the “civil” is actually “uncivil” to those on the outside of power.
The actions of THE General Body, to me, represent an important blending of these “civil” and “uncivil” ways of speaking, demonstrating lessons learned on campus and within the larger history in which they occur. THE General Body have written letters and petitions stating their beliefs, spoken effectively (and civilly) to campus administrators. They have also protested on campus, sponsored rallies, and now staged a sit-in. And as a result, the university administration, the student body, and the larger Syracuse community are now involved in an engaged discussion of how to respond to legitimate concerns.
To me, their actions are not immature, but part of a historical legacy which speaks to the best values of the university and our larger democratic culture. Many may disagree with THE General Body’s particular goals, their values, but anyone interested in a vibrant democratic culture on campus would do well to study the effectiveness of their actions.


Some Anti-Neoliberal Community Partnership Principles



The other day, in the midst of being interviewed, I was asked “How do you know that your community partnership work doesn’t just support neo-liberal policies? That you aren’t just helping the university fulfill a neo-liberal social role?”

While answering the second question is the topic for a much longer essay, I answered the first question by asserting a set of “principles.” Among the principles were the following:

  1. The particular project must support a local community organization’s larger efforts to produce systemic economic or political change in the neighborhood within the context of a demand for state/government intervention.
  2. The organizational leadership must be community members, working within a democratic sense of leadership. 
  3. The organization must be a non-profit, registered within the state in which the work is taking place. 
  4. The project must understand literacy work as a tool to produce a collective identity, based on community insights, and pointed toward linking that identity to concrete political action. 
  5. Involved students will be positioned as researcher allies, providing the data/information from which particular policies by the organization can be decided. 
  6. Involved students will gain insights into how literacy work can produce a collective identity and plan for action; projects based on individual volunteerism will not be considered. 
  7. Any writing/publication project must be overseen by a community-led editorial board, consisting of organization members and non-aligned community members. 
  8. Any writing/publication project which is circulated beyond the writing/publication group must be approved by those involved in the specific project, with individual participants having final say over the circulation of their writing, as well as the sponsoring community organization. 
  9. Funding for the project can come from university or community sources, as long as the community has final approval.  Project expenses should be kept at a level which allows sustainability as well as independence from non-community based organizations.

While I am sure more could be added and those listed expanded upon, my sense is this is at least a beginning – a tentative framework from which to develop future work.

What happened to Advocacy? Minimalist Politics Seem Today’s Norm

As  every piece of data seems to further establish the growing wealth disparity within the United States (and globally), Composition as a field, a pedagogy, and a set of ethical commitments seems a bit at a loss. Now a full fledged discipline, Composition currently engages in a commitment to public rhetoric that leaves behind many of the advocacy practices which first pushed it’s presence into the modern university. We are “public rhetoricians;” not politicized rhetoricians. We teach the public sphere, we do not change it. And the arguments which push such a stance continue to gain increased nuanced and visibility in the field.

Case in point: Recently Brian Gogan has published an article in C’s re-invigorating the “letter to the editor” assignment (“Expanding the Aims of Public Rhetoric and Writing Pedagogy: Writing Letters to the Editor,” June 2014). In a nuanced and carefully argued essay, Googan establishes that it is not the assignment itself which is flawed, but the pedagogical framework in which it exists. A framework that promises too much while simultaneously asks too little of the students. The “letter,” that is, asks students to imagine a theory of change that overestimates the power of any one piece of discourse and, in doing so, teaches them little about the way public discourse exists within an ecology. To that end, Coogan asks us to understand the assignment as a moment where students can come to understand how discourse calls an audience into being, providing them a sense of rhetorical agency, as well as how that agency exists within a complex ecology where the results of that discursive call are difficult to measure. So the student who has her letter published in a newspaper, through on-line responses, has helped to create a new, albeit small, public. Similarly, the student whose letter was not published, still gained the insight into discourse is used to hail forth a new public. And given the complexity of any ecological discursive system, which the students have studied in relationship to their issue, both can have some sense that they have altered the discursive terrain within which their letter existed. And although Gogan does not provide a sense of how to estimate such change, such a conclusion seem intuitively true.

What is interesting about such arguments on how to educate students to understand their public role – and Gogan’s is clearly a strong version of this argument – is that the student is not asked to assess the change that their writing might have produced within the context of other change models. The “letter to the editor” is part of a complex ecology of change, but such “letters” need to be understood within other strategies – such as mass protest, non-profit advocacy, legislative campaigns. By reducing public writing to letters, with the impact of such letters essentially unknowable within a particular ecology, our field seems to want to imagine this discursive insight is the limits of our pedagogical mission. It seems to relieve the pressure to teach additional models of change to our students as part of any public rhetoric project.

And while I agree with Gogan that our field too often equates “the streets” with the “real,” I also believe that if we are going to have them write to editors, we also need to have students take part in other forms of discursive public work that move beyond individual efforts. That is, we need to teach them other strategies which link the written word more directly to collective action, to attempts to create a strategic intervention in ecologies of power. Indeed, it is the continued absence of a need to teach collective action (Welch and Wilkey excepted) which marks the current state of our self described public role, our politics.

Individual insight trumps collective vision.

At such moments, I have to wonder what those advocates, the Smithermans, Villanuevas, and others would say about how we have built upon the heritage of their hard work. I’m afraid we will too often be found wanting.

The Political Turn: Writing, Democracy and Activism — Call for Papers

Occupy Wall Street


The Political Turn

Writing, Democracy, and Activism

Eds: Shannon Carter, Ben Kuebrich, Deborah Mutnick, Steve Parks

There have been numerous theoretical “turns” in Composition/Rhetoric – linguistic, social, cultural, and public, to name a few (Rorty; Berlin; Geertz; Trimbur and George; Mathieu; Warner). Each turn related to the current moment faced by scholars and students generated an expansive body of work and profoundly influenced the field. In our historical moment, a “political turn” capable of addressing the economic and material concerns of the students in our classroom, writing teachers of all rank, and the communities we live in, seems necessary given the large-scale political upheavals and economic collapse that have marked the past ten years – think Wall Street 2008, the Arab Spring of 2010, and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Yet, in this moment of disruption and transformation, we are not very clear about the purview of politics in the writing classroom. Nor has there been sufficient theorizing on the political role of the writing teacher outside the classroom in response to issues ranging from the exploitation of contingent labor and the impact of neoliberal policies on higher education to climate change, skyrocketing income inequality, and increasingly aggressive U.S. foreign policies. Disciplinary identity trumps our role as politicized, public intellectuals. Continue reading