Commitment to Anti-Racism

A Statement from the Online Writing Centers Association

June 2, 2021

As a new writing center association, OWCA has an opportunity to firmly declare who we want to be. We write this statement to publicly shape the priorities of the organization and future Executive Boards and to invite the writing center community to hold us accountable for this work moving forward. We believe writing center organizations are responsible for teaching and supporting anti-racist work, evaluating organizational structures and practices through the lens of anti-racism, and removing barriers and white supremist cultures that alienate people of color in the writing center community.  We see this statement as the beginning of a work in progress and the first of many steps to committing to anti-racism as a core value of OWCA.

Responding to specific instances of police brutality and racism in a timely way is difficult because these incidents occur so frequently in American society. This statement began as a response to the guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd. In the few weeks since, people of color continue to be mistreated and killed while in police custody in the United States; these incidents include teenagers like 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant in Ohio and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.

We, at OWCA, acknowledge that violence and trauma do not conveniently cease at the boundaries of academia or of writing centers; violence occurs in many forms. Writing centers’ policies, practices, pedagogy, hiring processes, training, and academic and linguistic expectations can all uphold racism and white supremacy in ways that affect the staff of writing centers and the students who use our services. Similarly, the values, priorities, pay walls, election processes, conferences, and silence on current events can uphold racism and white supremacy in the larger writing center community.

The OWCA acknowledges that the members of our Executive Board and committees are predominantly white and that this is far too common in writing center associations. Our privileged viewpoint may compromise our ability to see the full effect of our words, our silence, our actions, and our inactions. We may have neglected to invite input from people of color, and this was evident in the initial draft of this document. We seek to answer Neisha-Anne Green’s call to be not allies, but accomplices in this fight against racism. We are grateful to all people who generously share their time and energy to help us see our missteps and identify areas for growth and combat systemic racism domestically and globally.

We welcome our readers to share this statement and contribute to this work as we, the OWCA, commit ourselves to listen, share what we learn, and support our stakeholders in equitable and socially just ways.

Visit the OWCA website to read our action items for this letter and ways you can get involved. We welcome feedback on this statement or other recommendations.

Signed,

Jenelle M. Dembsey, Founding President

Sarah Prince, Founding Vice President

Elle Tyson, Founding Treasurer

Beth Nastachowski, Founding Secretary

Brooke Hessler, At-Large Representative

Paula Rawlins, At-Large Representative 

Megan Boeshart, At-Large Representative

Anna Shapland, Student Representative

Luke Shackelford, Student Representative

Yvonne R. Lee, Committee Member

Hideki Nakazono, Committee Member

Tanya Camp, Committee Member

Michelle Hager, Committee Member