By: Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA

For its winter events, WIC brought Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, who goes by dr. vay, to give a talk on anti-racist writing instruction and lead a workshop on code-meshing. The recaps of both events below outline key concepts and action steps you can take to implement anti-racist practices in your own teaching.

Teaching to Redress

dr. vay gave his talk, entitled “Teaching to Redress: Using the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism to Pursue Anti-Racist Writing Instruction in Rhetoric and Composition,” on February 24th to an audience of more than 200. He opened the lecture by offering a Black Body Acknowledgment, a concept dr. vay created that is modeled on Indigenous land acknowledgments. A Black Body Acknowledgement serves three purposes: acknowledging Black people’s oppression, committing to challenging that oppression, and asking audience members to join the commitment to anti-racist work. dr. vay’s own Black Body Acknowledgement called upon his audience to be open to transforming their perceptions of linguistic diversity.

The rest of dr. vay’s talk provided arguments against white-centered pedagogies and in favor of accepting different linguistic varieties. dr. vay explained that dominant pedagogies are harmful because they fail to recognize marginalized rhetorical traditions and assign “linguistic deficiency” to certain BIPOC students. These pedagogies teach students that dialects associated with white people, often referred to as “Standard English,” are more effective for communication than dialects associated with BIPOC communities. In fact, dr. vay argued that BIPOC dialects may be precisely the languages we need to challenge colonialism and systemic racism.

Although many writing instructors worry that their students will need to speak Standard English later on, and that they would be denying their students a chance at success by letting them write in their own dialects, dr. vay contended that instructors should not become “proxies” for teachers down the hall or for their students’ imagined future employers. Instead, writing instructors can teach their students that the idea of Standard English itself is a myth, because everybody mixes dialects, or “code-meshes,” when they write and speak. Students can then become advocates for their own language and make their own decisions about how to use their languages in different contexts.

Ultimately, dr. vay emphasized that teachers of writing must be open to learning about anti-racist pedagogy through education as well as trial and error, and must remain willing to challenge their own beliefs. He recommended that instructors create their own Black Body Acknowledgement, which can be given in class or put on a syllabus. dr. vay also suggested some resources for instructors to educate themselves and center BIPOC voices, including his own textbook, This Ain’t Yesterday’s Literacy: Culture and Education After George Floyd; The Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric, co-edited by dr. vay and Michelle Bachelor Robinson; and Aja Y. Martinez’s Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory.

Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English

On February 25th, dr. vay gave his workshop on “Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers.” To begin, he asked participants to reflect on whose voices influence their approach to linguistic diversity. Is it linguists, whose research shows that all dialects are grammatical and have equal potential for effective communication? Is it Black students, whose experiences demonstrate the harm of dominant approaches to language? Or is it “the teacher down the hall,” who argues that some harm is necessary for students’ success?

dr. vay invited participants to listen to linguists and Black students and to be open-minded about code-meshing. His concept of code-meshing refers to the practice of “combining dialects” with Standard English in professional, academic, and everyday contexts. Along with translingualism, or an understanding of language as “fluid” and “negotiable,” code-meshing asks that we view language not as a “barrier,” but always as a “resource” for communication. Instructors should not aim to protect students from future discrimination, but to help students become more effective communicators—and that means teaching code-meshing.

The workshop also stressed the importance of challenging dominant ideologies that promote linguistic discrimination. Rather than refer to certain dialects as “non-standard,” dr. vay suggested calling them “undervalued.” He also engaged participants in a mind-mapping activity in which participants identified their different linguistic resources and saw in their own lives how everybody already code-meshes.

In addition to the mind-mapping activity, dr. vay offered several suggestions for approaching code-meshing in the classroom. These include putting a pedagogical mission statement on the syllabus, having students find examples of code-meshing in published academic texts, using grading contracts, and working with other faculty to continue learning about anti-racist work. dr. vay identified two texts that can jumpstart this learning process: his co-authored collection, Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy, and the CCCC statement “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice!”

The WIC Team is happy to announce our spring event series for 2022. For the third year, all events will be held via Zoom. While the remote modality precludes WIC’s regular provision of pizza, it has also allowed for greater scheduling flexibility, and this year’s events will be offered in a variety of time slots. In light of this change, it may be more appropriate to refer to this year’s “Spring Lunch Series” as a “Spring Snack Series,” albeit one which is strictly BYO Snack. You can register for spring events with this link.

Here is this year’s line-up:

Helping Students Read Disciplinary Texts

Friday, April 8 (OSU Week 2), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

Reading academic texts is challenging, especially for readers who are encountering particular kinds of texts for the first time. In this workshop, three faculty members will share tips and strategies you can use to help your students engage more effectively with difficult texts.

  • Stephanie André (English, Central Oregon CC) will describe strategies she uses in writing classes, including Writing 121.
  • Sheri Jordan (English, Blue Mountain CC) will describe the “Reading Apprenticeship” framework and how it supports reading across all disciplinary areas.
  • Shawn Massoni (Microbiology, OSU) will describe how he uses journal clubs in science classes.

This interactive workshop will include time to think and talk about how to apply strategies in our own teaching, and to ask questions.

Led by: Stephanie André (English, Central Oregon CC), Sheri Jordan (English, Blue Mountain CC) and Shawn Massoni (Microbiology, OSU)

Register here

Supporting Multilingual Student Writers

Friday, April 22 (OSU Week 4), 1:00-2:20 p.m.

In this session, Kelley Calvert, Writing Center Coordinator for Multilingual Support, will begin by discussing strategies to support multilingual writers in the classroom, with a focus on taking an asset-based approach to multilingualism. Following this introduction, Academic Support staff will join in the discussion around the topic of supporting multilingual writers. There will be time for questions and answers with a multiplicity of perspectives and strategies represented. 

Led by: Kelley Calvert, Multilingual Support Coordinator, OSU Writing Center

Register here

Another Angle on Assignments: Tips and Insights from Writing Consultants

Friday, May 6 (OSU Week 6), 3:00-4:20 p.m.

Writing consultants are trained to support their peers through on-on-one conversations about the writer’s process and draft. Consultants work with students across all majors and encounter a variety of assignments. A panel of writing consultants will describe assignment features that writers often finding confusing, as well as assignment features that help students understand their writing tasks, and that support their work as writers. After the panel share their perspectives, there will be time for attendees to ask consultants questions about these observations or other aspects of their work.

Led by: OSU Writing Consultants

Register here

Understanding and Supporting Transfer Students in WIC and Beyond

Friday, May 20 (OSU Week 8), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

36% of OSU undergraduates transfer here, bringing with them multi-faceted lived experiences, identities, and abilities that differ from those of non-transfer students. Understanding who these students are and what they bring to OSU will help us as faculty better draw on their past experiences, and better support them as learners in our classes. In this dialogue with OSU Transfer Transitions Coordinator Erin Bird, you will have a chance to learn more about our transfer student population, and about the strengths and needs of this growing part of our undergraduate population. Additionally, discussion surrounding non-transfer students’ transfer credits will be shared to shape awareness of all students enrolling in WIC-based curriculum.  

Led by: Erin Bird, OSU Transfer Transitions Coordinator

Register here

Reflecting on Teaching and Revising Classes and Assignments

Monday, June 6 (OSU Week 11), 2:00-3:20 p.m.

Teaching is a work in progress, and whether we’re heading into summer teaching or looking ahead to fall, now is a good time to reflect on what’s working and to think about revisions. This might be anything from the high level of overall class design, down to the fine-grained level of creating or tweaking low-stake classroom exercises. Wherever the level of change you are contemplating, join WIC Director Sarah Tinker Perrault and fellow WIC faculty from 2:00-3:20 on Monday, June 6th, for a guided discussion that will help you create a plan.

Led by: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Register here

By: Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Winter is a relatively quiet quarter for WIC. However, we did have two excellent winter events, we have some exciting work going on behind the scenes, and we have set a spring workshop series that offers a lot.

Regarding the winter events, on February 24th, the internationally renowned scholar Vershawn Ashanti Young of Waterloo University gave a public talk, “Teaching to Redress: Using the Myth of Canadian Exceptionalism to Pursue Anti-Racist Writing Instruction in Rhetoric and Composition,” and on the 25th he led a workshop on “Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and Black Standard English: Implications for Classroom Writers.” You can read synopses of these events here.

While winter is quiet in terms of events, a lot goes on behind the scenes. On the WIC team, we welcomed Olivia Rowland as the WIC graduate assistant for the remainder of the year, and we welcomed Faye Stone as an undergraduate assistant. With Faye’s help, we have started scanning files. Creating digital copies is a large project, but one well worth undertaking. WIC is one of the earliest, longest-lasting, and best-supported programs of its type, and for that alone its history is worth preserving. In addition, digitizing the files will make them available to scholars via the WAC Program Archives at the WAC Clearinghouse. As of late February, Faye has scanned 112 files, and we have just gotten started. Other projects include revising the WIC course proposal checklist, and working on revamping and adding resources to the WIC website.

Finally, the spring workshop series will cover a range of topics including how to integrate academic reading instruction into your courses, how to best tap into the strengths and abilities of multilingual students, and a similar workshop on working with and understanding the strengths and abilities of transfer students. In addition to these events, which will be led by faculty and staff experts from OSU and Oregon community colleges, we also will have a panel of writing center tutors offering advice on how to craft effective writing assignments, and taking questions from faculty. At the end of the quarter, I will facilitate a discussion in which faculty can reflect on changes they would like to make in their teaching next year, and develop plans for how they might revise curricula, exercises, and assignments over the summer. To read more about and register for these events please see our events page.