The University of Idaho Writing Center’s Antiracism Statement
The Writing Center is committed to providing one-on-one assistance to all members of the University of Idaho community including students, faculty, staff, and alumni. At the core of our encounters with writers is our drive to foster a personal sense of success, which encompasses not only academic efforts, but also relies on experiences of belonging and equity. We believe it is imperative to honor individuals’ unique ways of knowing and expression; their racial, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds; and the ways personal identity intersect with all forms of learning and communication. We recognize the vulnerability and trust required for sharing one’s writing and asking for help. We recognize, too, our cultural context, which includes the growing and overdue awareness of structural racism in the United States and its academic institutions. As the Writing Center is situated in academia, we see our work as entwined with issues of structural racism and are committed to actively working against it. It is our position that it is not enough to be not racist; thus, we are anti-racist. Our purpose in drafting this statement is two-fold. The first is to assert our stances on social justice and anti-racism work. The second is to outline our commitments to ensuring the Writing Center is a safe space for all people to take risks, encounter and process new ideas, express themselves, and make meaning.
Structural racism exists in the United States and its academic institutions. We recognize that in academic institutions many policies, representations, conventions, and expectations exist that disadvantage people of color. Moreover, we recognize that structural racism is longstanding, embedded in policies and conventions that are invisible to or taken for granted by many.
We reject the politicization of the term antiracism, which we have observed in the media and which we recognize as having polarized individuals and acted against the equitable culture we envision and seek to work toward.
Learning and unlearning are ongoing processes. We stand by Tracy Davis and Laura Harrison’s assertion that “we have all held biases, socialized oppression affects us all, and that we are all unfinished.” We each have an obligation to continually educate ourselves about our society and its history, and to examine and question our biases. This is ongoing work–as we learn and grow, we realize there is more yet to learn.
English is a global language with numerous varieties and accents. While Standard American English (SAE) is conventionally accepted at this university, it is just one among many varieties comprising the English language. Writers can and should draw upon their full spectrum of language resources to fully express themselves to an open-minded audience.
Oppressive language and actions pervade all of society. We are responsible for learning to recognize and respond to them, maintaining a non-combative tone that provides a foundation for proactive discourse.
Diversity benefits us all: it allows us to shape our individual experiences with the collective experience of others; it affirms the stories of others and the struggle that is present in each; it enables us to cross bridges of empathy and allows us to come together with cultural humility. Tangible anti-racist efforts to promote and respect individual diversity most importantly benefit those historically and currently oppressed; moreover, such efforts disrupt biases and free everybody from prescribed identities.
We Are Committed To:
Fostering diversity and promoting the positionality of all who use the Writing Center by taking time to get to know people as individuals, identifying their unique goals and concerns, practicing active listening and open-ended questioning, and taking a collaborative approach to our work.
Supporting multiple language varieties by reading broadly and for meaning first. In our tutor training and ongoing education, we learn about English as a common global language with many varieties and writing accents, and about the deep connection between language and personal identity. With writers, we try to ensure that their work aligns with their identity and expression and feels personally accurate and authentic for their goals.
Openly discussing race and issues of social justice. We work to create an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement that acknowledges the way structural racism implicitly and explicitly influences one’s writing. When encountering oppressive language, we confront it in a non-combative way, separating the language from its speakers to encourage productive discourse about ways language can marginalize and oppress audiences.
Creating opportunities for everyone – beyond just our staff and students – to learn about and participate in antiracist practices. This means fostering open dialogues by actively developing our listening and communication skills, and by speaking up in respectful and non-confrontational ways when encountering oppressive language and perspectives.
Educating ourselves about social justice, anti-racist theory, praxis, and the intersection of structural racism with writing and academia. This includes incorporating diverse voices and perspectives into our tutor education course and professional development activities. We recognize that our work follows in the footsteps of generations of antiracist activists, scholars, and advocates, and as we foster a culture of antiracism in our center, it is important to recognize, study, and implement their work and ideas.
Establishing hiring practices that enable us to build a Writing Center environment where each employee feels valued and supported, and the staff represents the diversity of our university. We work to recruit tutors from beyond the English Department, working with TRIO, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, College Assistance Migrant Program, Black Cultural Center, International Programs Office, and other offices and organizations, to create a Writing Center that reflects everyone who may use it.
To Learn More (Resources)
Here are a few of the resources we continue to rely on in our Writing Center. Please let us know about additional titles and resources we should access and add:
Camarillo, Eric C. “Dismantling Neutrality: Cultivating Antiracist Writing Center Ecologies.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2019, pp. 69-74.
Condon, Frankie. “Beyond the Known: Writing Centers and the Work of Anti-Racism.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 27, no. 2, 2007, pp. 19-38.
Davis, Tracy, & Harrison, Laura M. Advancing social justice: tools, pedagogies, and strategies to transform your campus. Wiley, 2013.
Greenfield, Laura. Radical Writing Center Praxis: A Paradigm for Ethical Political Engagement. Utah State University Press, 2019.
Greenfield, Laura, and Karen Rowan, editors. Writing Centers and the New Racism: A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change. Utah State University Press, 2011.
Neisha-Anne Green. “Moving beyond Alright.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 27, no. 1, 2018, pp. 15–34.
Suhr-Sytsma, Mandy, and Shan-Estelle Brown. “Theory in/to Practice: Addressing the Everyday Language of Oppression in the Writing Center.” Writing Center Journal, vol. 31, no. 2, 2011, pp. 13-49.
Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” In Writing Centers and the New Racism. Utah State University Press, 2011.