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.
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