[The UW Tacoma Writing Center’s “Statement on Antiracist and Social Justice Work in the Writing Center,” highlighted in the story below, has been misrepresented by issues-oriented blogs based in other states. Read more: “Response to Inaccurate Reports about the UW Tacoma Writing Center.”]
The UW Tacoma Writing Center has taken significant steps towards standing against racism in the field of writing. With its new antiracism and social justice statement, the Center starts a conversation on the discrimination and alienation that often go unnoticed in academia. As the statement urges, “there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” and with this in mind, the Center aims to ensure that through compassion and careful consideration, staff do not inadvertently embrace racist practices.
Spearheaded by Writing Center Director Dr. Asao Inoue—who is also an associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and director of university writing—the statement is very much influenced by Inoue’s research on racism in writing assessments. In his 2015 book, Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future, Inoue considered the many ways in which racism becomes apparent in academia, as well as proposed that only through the acknowledgment of structures of racism could they begin to be dismantled. Dr. Inoue, who has received two Outstanding Book Awards—the first in 2014 for Race and Writing Assessment and again in 2017 for Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies—from the Conference on College Composition and Communication, has dedicated his career to the study of rhetoric and composition, in order to better understand and work to solve racial inequity in academia.
Every student, regardless of their background, comes to college with a different collection of experiences, said Dr. Inoue. “The anti-racism statement is a document that took over a year to collaboratively create with writing center professional staff and student writing consultants. It was officially put up and incorporated in our work in the fall of 2016, so we are just beginning.” Dr. Inoue contends that in order for something to become anti-racist, there must first be an earnest discussion of how racism has produced certain standards of education or systems themselves. As a result of the pervasiveness of racism, Inoue argues, its presence must be acknowledged on a systemic level, and thus this statement was born.
“Linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” proclaims the writing center’s statement. “Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”
In the introduction to its “commitment” section, the Tacoma Writing Center pledges to “listen and look carefully and compassionately for ways we may unintentionally perpetuate racism or social injustice, actively engaging in antiracist practices” before making nine specific promises to students.
“We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” announces the poster. “We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”
In an article accompanying the poster, the University of Washington, Tacoma revealed Friday that Dr. Asao Inoue, director of the writing center, is behind the new push for social justice.
On his Tacoma faculty page, Inoue states that he does “research that investigates racism in writing assignments.” Meanwhile, the professor’s Twitter presence indicates no love for President Donald Trump: