Eye-Opening Essays on Diversity in the Writing Center

Deborah Boyett, Class of 2014.

Jonathan Douchette’s “Composing Queers” was an interesting, if rather difficult read. Douchette discusses his tendencies to alienate his peers with his technical language, and this also creeps into his prose. However, I appreciated his comments on the lenses through which we examine writing. These are different for every individual, and tend to color how we write, think, and read.

After reading Barron and Grimm’s “Addressing Racial Diversity in the Writing Center,” my initial reaction was disheartenment. Like Baron and Grimm, I would not have anticipated the amount of rejection that was received by most of the writing tutors (Barron and Grimm called them “coaches” but I will refer to them as tutors, because that is the language we have used throughout the class). However, I found that the most insightful part of their essay was their acknowledgement that confronting race also means confronting one’s own past – it is never only about what the “other” thinks. The format of their essay addressed this difficult point, in that it was broken into “lessons” with examples, anecdotes, and then individual comments from both Barron and Grimm, who come from extremely different backgrounds. This brought a lot of variety and life to the essay.

This essay was a great read, especially after discussing Aziza’s experience at the writing center. She recalled that as she was generating ideas with the undergraduate writing tutor, the tutor seemed to be taken aback by Aziza’s arguments and thoughts. Aziza, a woman of color, left the writing tutor unsatisfied, as she did not feel tutored or helped, but judged by her peer. This essay and Aziza’s recollection make me wonder what we do to encourage diversity at the Hume Writing Center. Stanford is an amazing place, with so much diversity it was almost a culture shock for me. Amid all of it, I think we assume that everyone is well versed in discussions of race, especially because our community centers are so active on campus. That assumption would be a mistake. I know that I for one have learned so much in only two years here. In going back home to Texas, I was confronted with racially charged statements that my peers and relatives did not even recognize as offensive. It was eye opening to know that, if I had not left and exposed myself to different environments, I would not have thought so either.

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