Dear Writing Center Community,
Thank you for reading this special issue of The Peer Review, “Researching and Restoring Justice: A Letter from the Editors,” which seeks to explore the perspectives of nontraditional editors of a writing center journal aimed at amplifying the work and profiles of tutors, graduate students, and emergent scholars (and women, people of color, translingual speakers, and those identifying with other groups underrepresented within the writing center/studies discipline, specifically).
In order to align with our mission to include perspectives of nontraditional scholars within the field, our letter includes a video recording of our roundtable presentation for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. Included in the video are some of the voices who have assisted with the process of creating this special issue of The Peer Review. Since the call for proposals for this special issue is titled “Researching and Restoring Justice in Writing Centers”, and it aims to amplify the work and profiles of tutors, graduate students, underrepresented groups, and emergent scholars, we decided that the best way to include such work was not only from the authors, but also from those who worked within the making of the special issue. We want to thank those who have had a hand in this process of creating a special issue journal, as well as those who have graciously taken time to be a part of this presentation.
We would especially like to thank the authors included within this special issue: Karen Moroski-Rigney, Anne Fleming, Janel McCloskey, Zandra L. Jordan, Louis A. Herman, Alison P. Wells, Shuv Raj Rana Bhat, Lizbett Tinoco, Angela Lynn Morris, Brennah Hutchison, Celeste Ann Del Russo, Sharada Krishnamurthy, Donna A. Mehalchick-Opal, Andrew Pine, Mary McGinnis, Jennifer Gray, Jollina Simpson, Hugo Virrueta, Patricia Haney, Jennifer Peña, Laura Hardin Marshall, Shelby Leclair, Mario Avalos, Nicole Larraguibel, Floyd Pouncil, Rachel Robinson, and Xuan Jiang.
We also want to thank Randall Monty and Elisabeth Buck for handing over the reins and trusting us with this important project. We would not be in the position we are in without them. We also want to thank the proposal reviewers who assisted prior to our transition into the reviewer/editorial roles, as well as the copy editors: Emily Bagley, Mary Lou Cardenas, Diana Duran, Mia Jones, Alejandra Moz, Sarah Murphy, Nicole O’Connell, Tracey A. Saloman, and Ashten Shope.
As two Latinx and a white woman, we acknowledge our privilege. As non-tenure faculty members (one graduate student and two lecturers), we also acknowledge that we would not usually be given these opportunities to partake in the creation of a journal. We would like to balance the privilege that we do have by promoting the conversations and research that the scholars within the special issue are having.
Within the Issue
Because this special issue is multimodal, all of the manuscripts are required to have some sort of multimodal component. Our intention with this was to include non-traditional article submissions (instead of text-based) that were more accessible and diverse in their outreach.
Within this special issue, readers will hear from authors challenging the norms of writing centers. This includes works from researchers who discuss inviting students’ cultural English into the writing classroom with the help of code-meshing workshops provided by writing center tutors (Hutchinson and Morris); authors who describe socially just practices for hiring, training, and outreach initiatives (Del Russo, Krishnamurthy, Mehalchick-Opal); accessibility statements in writing centers (Pine and Moroski-Rigney); the importance of multimodality within the center (McGinnis and Gray); as well as the use of mentorship theory to inform and develop actionable ways to bring diverse student voices to the forefront of writing center leadership (Haney). The special issue also includes a musical accompaniment examining how peer-to-peer writing centers can help bridge the divide for marginalized students (Simpson and Virrueta); an overview of potential and existing applications of bilingualism, multilingualism, and translingualism in tutoring sessions (Peña, Larraguibel, Avalos, and Jiang); as well as a womanist approach to antiracist, racially just writing center administration (Jordan). Overall, this issue seeks to challenge who best practices in the discipline were created for and who they serve, and this preview only begins to highlight the important work that is amplified within this special issue (see also Fleming; Tinoco, Herman, Rana Bhat, & Zepeda; and McCloskey, Allain, Drepaul, Hendry, Kindt, Sesay, & Welsh).
The actual process of getting this whole issue out involved many scholars in the field who may not usually have been given these types of opportunities- from the scholars who submitted manuscripts, to the proposal reviewers, to the editors, to the copy editors. Making spaces for the norm of writing centers to restore justice is the mission of this special issue.
Grounding in Literature
The way academic journals traditionally function involves a team of editorial staff of tenured track faculty who review, give feedback, and decide on the acceptance of journal proposals. Thinking about the type of process this traditional route gives power to (Bailey, 2017; Haynes, 2019), who it privileges (García de Müeller, 2020), and how those who aren’t in the designated positions may feel about research and academia (Gillborn, 2005), we argue that it does not give the same access to everyone and instead excludes proposals/people. As García (2017) recognizes, “writing centers function within a tapestry of social structures, reproducing and generating systems of privilege” which, we cannot deny, is also how journals and academia work holistically.
As participants in the creation of an online special issue journal in the field of Writing Center Studies, we are attempting to disrupt this norm. The original editors of the special issue journal gathered a group of lecturers, graduate students, and undergraduate students to serve as the team of editors and reviewers.
The goal for this special issue was simple: to amplify the voices, work, and profiles of tutors and all emergent scholars, undergraduate and graduate students alike, including “women, people of color, translingual speakers, and those identifying with other groups underrepresented within the discipline” (TPR CFP, 2019). By amplifying voices both in the work towards the issue and the work within the issue, we aimed to confront gatekeepers and to use the privilege and space we have to call attention to current issues and make space for others to share their research and experience.
This issue of The Peer Review, “Researching and Restoring Justice in Writing Centers” centered around just that, the idea of what it means to restore justice in the writing center, what justice in the writing center really looks like, and how justice is shaped in writing centers and institutions. These articles would help to move away from showcasing writing center work as work that is “white, heteronormative, monolingual, and able-bodied” (TPR CFP, 2019). This work would ultimately help shift towards writing centers and institutions that are more welcoming and inclusive of all writers.
By taking on these roles as special issue editors, we were stepping into a space that we wouldn’t have otherwise been a part of. We were able to create our space with this space that we were given. As graduate students and non-tenure track lecturers we were welcomed in the space much like all students should be welcomed in the writing center. Grutsch-McKinney (2005) talks about what it means to be welcoming in the writing center.
She mentions that the idea of a welcoming writing center has always been associated with a physical space, making a writing center feel “cozy” and comfortable and much like “home.” However, she points out that “home” isn’t the same for everyone. Home is often cultural, and doesn’t necessarily provide the same type of comfort to everyone. Grustch-McKinney (2005) discusses the idea that when we create writing center culture, we must listen to our writing centers. This means considering the “workings” of our own writing centers. Rather than creating a general space where diverse students may not be welcomed, we should create spaces where all students can be welcome to have intellectual conversations about writing.
This means taking a critical look at our writing centers and determining ways to make writing centers welcoming for all students. Working with this special issue of TPR has allowed us to work with scholars whose goal it is to serve justice in the writing center, particularly in diversifying the writing center. Being able to have to have this opportunity to work with the special issue of TPR as emerging scholars ourselves has allowed us to feel welcomed in this field of scholarship.
Looking to the Future
The whole process for this issue where we collectively stepped in began last December, almost a year ago. We reviewed proposals in early 2020. We extended deadlines for manuscripts because of COVID-19. And now we’re here, with an actual journal issue about writing centers reviewed, edited, and composed by people who don’t usually get these experiences.
We decided, with the encouragement of Monty, that the release of this special issue should coincide with the NCPTW conference because this conference, especially because of it’s virtual platform, brings together people who work in and care about writing centers. It is the goal of those who read and engage with this multimodal special issue will further their ideas about the power of writing centers and start to challenge the norm of current writing centers and scholarship as well as what it means to publish in the discipline. With this special issue, the manuscripts and the process of how it was created, edited, and published, we hope to begin working with a new way of thinking about justice.
With this issue, we hope to explore and showcase ways of doing scholarship and writing centers that challenge the current norm. We hope to empower all scholars in this community who traditionally don’t have space- including undergraduate students, graduate students, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ scholars to continue sharing their ways of making knowledge and of making these spaces accessible. We hope to show that those with space right now can use their privilege to make space for others.
Morgan Banville, East Carolina University
Denae Dibrell, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Laura Gonzalez, Texas A&M University – Kingsville