Strategies for a more inclusive Writing Center?

Nancy Baron and Grimm’s article “Addressing Racial Diversity in a Writing Center: Stories and Lessons from Two Beginners” provides an excellent understanding of how, if unchecked, the Writing Center can continue to perpetuate the culture and paradigms of the dominant ethnicity. They advocate racial openness as opposed to racial blindness on the basis that the post-civil rights era erroneously makes it seem like race no longer matters. An example is provided of an African-American girl who tries to write “White prose,” keeping her own experience as a colored woman outside of the conversation. They align their goal with that of the New London Group: to “instantiate a vision through pedagogy that creates in microcosm a transformed set of relationships and possibilities” (307). Here, they are challenging the notion that the writing center should simply tutor the tutee for the writing context as a “transformed” entity is proposed not one that simply reaffirms the existing writing structures. Effectively, they pose a desire to rightfully change the writing context to render it more inclusive of multicultural writing and narratives.  Though the article discusses how to combat monoculturalism among the staff of the Writing Center, a whole new set of strategies need to be devised to deal with colored students who have inhibitions about racial openness.

Hence, I return to the tutoring session with the African-American girl who expressed her experience as a colored woman with great ease and flair but refused to write that down. How should the tutors help such a tutee? This was something that was wanting in the article and I feel like a mere rendition of the “affective confidence” principle we have discussed at length in our training would come into play. Tutors would need to give the tutees the support and confidence in the belief that their different perspective will enrich the racial discourse and therefore be of immense value. Exploring ways to enable Queer and colored tutees to be more open are the next step to truly facilitating inclusive environments in the writing center and, hopefully, beyond.


Sahar Khan ’13, Stanford

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