The Claremont Graduate University Center for Writing and Rhetoric commits to anti-racism both as a writing center and in our interactions with graduate students. In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, we acknowledge the relationship between language and systems of oppression. We are in solidarity with movements against state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. As consultants at the writing center, we commit to holding ourselves accountable, intervening productively in situations of discrimination and racism. Our approach to tutorship is collaborative and we work with respect for students’ individual agency and expertise. We take seriously our opportunities to combat how discrimination is perpetuated through structures of academic language. Language is heterogeneous and is a place of power for many movements and communities. The CGU/CWR community is filled with a diverse range of graduate students who are engaged in their own research and the ability to contribute to current movements that affect the Black community, Indigenous people, students of color, queer and nonbinary people, and students with various abilities. The CWR makes the commitment to anti-racist practice and pedagogy through affirmation, solidarity, and a commitment to openness to dialogue and critique.
We acknowledge that the CWR is a space for learning and growth, for both our consultants and our students. This statement represents the CWR’s commitment to anti-racism, but we also recognize the inability of the CWR to unlearn racism quickly and easily. This exists as a living document to be transformed by the contributions of students and discussions around racism and language. The CWR is always open to critique and it recognizes itself as a space that still exists within an institution that is structured around Standard American English. The CWR writes this statement in recognition that language, statements, and words of protest are a core component of activist movements against state-sanctioned violence and systematic racism. We acknowledge the ways incorporating anti-racism in the system of language originates from movements against oppression.
Anti-Racist Commitments and Actions
Our commitment is specific to our positions as writing consultants and centered in tangible action. Here at the CWR, we centralize antiracism in our approaches to tutoring and other duties of the writing center, including workshops, retreats, and recruitment of employees. We affirm a commitment to:
1. Centralize antiracist pedagogy and praxis in the CWR’s writing center philosophy
- Redesign hiring processes and consultant training to centralize antiracism with training materials and embracing diversity in writing
- Adjust materials surrounding tutor sessions to reflect this change in pedagogy (information on website and in the center, appointment forms, follow-up materials, etc.)
2. Challenge the uses of “Standard American English” in writing instruction in higher education
- Challenge discriminatory practices that police forms of writing and speaking
- Uphold collaboration in writing sessions and refrain from copy editing or adhering to racist and discriminatory definitions of formal and graduate writing
3. Develop a formal outreach program that prioritizes reaching marginalized groups at the university
- Engage with student groups as part of a regular outreach process, designed by a student leader at the center
- Conduct visits to as wide a range of classes as possible
- Develop the networks to more actively recruit underrepresented groups at the university
4. Maintain the CWR as a safe space, both physically and virtually, to include antiracism
- Prominently post and share the Anti-Oppression Statement in the physical center and on the website once it is developed
- Clearly display more safe space signage that represents a wider range of social groups online and in the physical center
5. Stay open to accountability and feedback
- Continue learning from the challenges and success of this process and make changes whenever necessary
- Conduct regular assessment to evaluate the appropriateness of the executed programs
- Welcome direct feedback on the CWR and its programs and resources
6. Collaborate with offices, departments, and individuals at the university in support of antiracist causes
- Support antiracist initiatives by, and develop antiracist projects in collaboration with, the Committee on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, the Office of Student Life, Diversity, & Leadership, student identity groups, and others
Pedagogy and Approach to Tutoring
- Provide safe space for collaborative writing processes that allow for variations in background, experience, worldview, and cultural values
- Demystify academic writing and specific expectations of higher education and CGU conventions
- Balance student-driven appointments with a pedagogical approach to tutoring, depending on a student’s individual needs
- Be open to all feedback and critique for improving the appointment process
One of our goals here at the CWR is to demystify academic writing and embrace collaborate approaches to tutoring. To this end, we:
Allow space for all students, from all academic and linguistic backgrounds, to feel comfortable sharing their writing process by allowing them to express feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty, and stress about their work without judgment. It is critical to allow for a variety of backgrounds, experiences, world views, and cultural values when evaluating student work, while still helping to demystify the meaning of assignments and specific expectations from the CGU perspective. These elements include providing solid foundations for common aspects of writing projects, including the format of a critical, thesis-driven approach and the use of specific field conventions. This is done through our own experience as well as by directing students to specific resources such as writing guides, style manuals, and webinars on writing-related topics. To give students the best chance for success, it is important to help them feel certain of what expectations they need to fulfill while allowing space for different forms of expression within those criteria. To develop confidence in their own writing abilities, we will help them discern issues such as: when to follow conventions and when not to, how to make informed choices about their own use of language, meshing their unique approach into larger conversations around a topic, and blending their own approaches with their professors’ expectations for academic writing. In these areas, we are prepared to offer specific strategies and teach specific applications, rather than present abstract concepts that students may not feel confident applying to their own work.
Additionally, we recognize that every single one of us is prone to error. We are open to receiving critique. We also understand our role to hold others accountable for any writing informed by discriminatory ideology. We will do so through welcome and ongoing conversation. We recognize that graduate students have a specific power to influence and affect communities of all sorts, and we understand the power we have in discussing any content that may make others uncomfortable.
Resisting Discrimination in English Usage and Grammar
- Allow for a range of written “Englishes” that do not merely conform to standard definitions
- Avoid assumptions about language and educational, racial, or cultural backgrounds
- Allow for alternate forms of expression through collaborative writing processes
At the Center for Writing and Rhetoric, we centralize antiracist commitments in our approaches to tutoring and working with written forms of expression. We support the uses of various forms of English, in order to recognize and actively challenge white supremacy in language and grammar and its various usages.
In our approaches to tutoring and consultant sessions, we understand that accepted and standardized Englishes have been defined in opposition to dialects already designated as nonstandard, designations that are influenced by historical and contemporary cultural and political ideologies about the people who speak those dialects. For first reads, especially with non-native English speakers, we should consider the larger point a student is expressing, rather than getting caught up in grammatical specifics. This includes considering different modes of expression that may be culturally dependent. We value different approaches to writing that challenge both standard and formal forms of composition. We also acknowledge the integration of personal and alternative forms of expression that may emerge in papers, theses, or dissertations.
In this commitment, we restrain from overcorrecting our students and believe in challenging hierarchies in tutorship; we let ourselves be guided by the unique writing styles of each of our students. We advocate for uplifting each student’s voice and agency; thus, we work through a collaborative process that will help produce better writers and better writing, as defined by the students with whom we are collaborating. Since we do not subscribe to a prescriptivist notion of grammar and standard English, our function as Writing Consultants is not that of copy editors who locate every “mistake”; rather, we aim to work alongside our fellow graduate student peers to collaborate within the writing process together in a way that validates all forms and dialects of English.
In recognizing our unique position at Claremont Graduate University and the presence of racism in structures of higher learning, the Center for Writing and Rhetoric and its consultants commit to embracing and integrating antiracist pedagogy and praxis. In line with these values, we hold a commitment to solidarity with all students.
Resources on Antiracism in the Writing Center
Aikens, Kristina. “Prioritizing Antiracism in Writing Tutor Education: How We Teach Writing Tutors.” A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship (2019). Accessed January 7, 2021. https://wlnjournal.org/digitaleditedcollection1/Aikens.html.
Benz, Brad, Kamila Kinyon, Eric Leake, and Eliana Schonberg. “Guidelines for Responding to the Writing of International Students.” University of Denver Writing Program, January 2014. Accessed January 7, 2021. Guidelines for Responding to the Writing of International Students | University of Denver (du.edu)
Davila, Bethany. “Rewriting Race in the Writing Center.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 31, 1 (Sept. 2006): 1-5. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://wlnjournal.org/archives/v31/31/1.pdf.
Diab, Rasha, Beth Godbee, Thomas Ferrel, and Neil Simpkins. “A Multi-Dimensional Pedagogy for Racial Justice in Writing Centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10, 1 (2012). Accessed January 7, 2021. Diab, Godbee, Ferrell, Simpkins 10.1 — Praxis (praxisuwc.com).
“Inclusivity Praxis.” The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://writing.wisc.edu/inclusivitystatement/praxis/.
“Inclusivity Statement.” The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://writing.wisc.edu/inclusivitystatement/.
“Inclusion and Anti-Racism: Inclusive and Anti-Racist Writing Praxis in the Writing Center.” Tacoma Teaching and Learning Center, University of Washington, Tacoma. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://www.tacoma.uw.edu/teaching-learning-center/mission-statement.
Kaletka, Zak. “Putting Writing at the Center of Inclusivity.” University of Washington, Tacoma. Last modified February 17 2017. https://www.tacoma.uw.edu/news/article/putting-writing-center-inclusivity#gsc.tab=0.
“Philosophy and Commitment to Antiracism.” Cal State University, Dominguez Hills. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://www.csudh.edu/writing-center/about/philosophy-antiracism/.
“Statements of Mission, Diversity, and History.” Writing Center, Central Michigan University. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://cmich.edu/colleges/class/Centers/WritingCenter/Pages/Mission-and-History.aspx
Suhr-Sytsma, Mandy and Shan-Estelle Brown. “Theory In/To Practice: Addressing the Everyday Language of Oppression in the Writing Center.” The Writing Center Journal 31, 2 (2011): 13-49.
Villanueva, Victor. “Blind: Talking About the New Racism.” The Writing Center Journal 26, 1 (2006): 3-19.
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