September 7, 2023
We, the officers of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), write this statement to express our deep concern about the proposed elimination of 32 programs and retrenchment of faculty across West Virginia University, including in English, Communication Studies, and World Languages and Literatures. As the officers of the largest professional organization of teachers and scholars of writing, rhetoric, and composition studies in the world, we are alarmed at how these proposed cuts resemble similar austerity measures that too often disproportionately impact the most vulnerable to the benefit of the ultra-wealthy. The pattern that emerges involves the weakening of tenure protections alongside the language of “financial exigence” and “efficiencies” and “cost savings” that do not affect the highest-paid employees at the institution. Often, these decisions are made in partnership with external for-profit consulting companies and without regard for principles of shared governance.
Academic austerity is not new. These measures have been impacting higher education—especially two-year colleges and regional colleges and universities—for some time now. What’s more, academic austerity has had disproportionate effects on members of our profession, who are frequent targets of labor abuses such as “intensified workloads and the casualization of labor (exploited adjunct labor)” (Kynard 134) in contingent and precarious positions that are stripped of resources (Kalish et al.). Not surprisingly, composition and rhetoric has had a long history of scholarship analyzing and resisting labor exploitation in higher education (Bousquet; Cox et al.; Kahn et al.; Kynard; Schell and Stock; Welch and Scott). In following this tradition, we call for a recommitment to shared governance, including meaningful faculty involvement and the consultation of scholars in the humanities before making decisions to eliminate academic programs. Furthermore, we stand for fair treatment and equitable working conditions for faculty, graduate instructors, and staff alike.
Given our mission to support “the agency, power, and potential of diverse communicators inside and outside of postsecondary classrooms”; “diverse language practices”; and “ethical scholarship and communication,” we find it imperative to advocate against measures that undermine the core values pivotal to promoting equity-oriented education and scholarly engagement. CCCC urges that WVU leadership follow AAUP guidelines on shared governance and consult widely with their on-campus experts before proceeding with either proposed or alternative plans for cost-saving predicated on efficiency-based models that neither reflect knowledge and best practice in affected disciplines nor serve the needs and interests of the University’s constituents.
— The Officers of the Conference on College Composition and Communication
Cole, Kirsti, et al. A Faculty Guidebook for Effective Shared Governance and Service in Higher Education. Routledge, 2023.
Bousquet, Marc. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation. New York UP, 2008.
Cox, Anicca, et al. “The Indianapolis Resolution: Responding to Twenty-First-Century Exigencies/Political Economies of Composition Labor.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 68, no. 1, 2016, pp. 38–67.
Kahn, Seth, et al. Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity: Labor and Action in English Composition. WAC Clearinghouse / UP of Colorado, 2017.
Kalish, Katie, et al. “Inequitable Austerity: Pedagogies of Resilience and Resistance in Composition.” Pedagogy, vol. 19, no. 2, 2019, pp. 261–81.
Kynard, Carmen. Fakers and Takers: Disrespect, Crisis, and Inherited Whiteness in Rhetoric-Composition Studies. Composition Studies, vol. 50, no. 3, 2022, pp. 131–36.
Schell, Eileen E., and Patricia Lambert Stock, editors. Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. National Council of Teachers of English, 2001.
Strickland, Donna. The Managerial Unconscious in the History of Composition Studies. Southern Illinois UP, 2011.
Welch, Nancy, and Tony Scott, editors. Composition in the Age of Austerity. UP of Colorado, 2016.