The UConn Writing Center is committed to an asset-based perspective on writers and writing, one that views diversity as a distinct advantage and linguistic strength.
There is No Inherent Standard of “Correct” English
The U.S. educational system has often positioned language difference as deficit (Matsuda, 2006) and segregated students of diverse language backgrounds into remedial tracks. These concepts of linguistic purity have roots in nationalist and white supremacist ideals. In contrast, we believe:
- We must do everything we can to dismantle oppressive ideologies by valuing and cultivating writers’ diverse linguistic assets.
- We must reject the idea that there is an inherently “correct” version of English that is intellectually superior.
- We must honor the agency of writers by affirming their right to make important decisions about voice and intent.
- We must challenge systemic discrimination in languaging practices and policies where we encounter them.
We Must Acknowledge the Ways We are Complicit in Oppression
Throughout their histories, writing centers have often been cast in remedial roles, responsible for what deficit models of literacy may refer to as “fixing” students’ “broken” language practices. Our institutional position means that we often bear witness to “everyday racism” (Geller et al., 2007) in institutional policies or instructor feedback, such as when students are told to alter their linguistic practices to meet standards that uphold dominant (white) discourses or else see their grades suffer. Because of our mission to support student success, tutors may feel pressured to help students conform to such standards without critiquing them; or they may believe that literacy instruction serves only to “improve” student writing and therefore is purely benevolent. We recognize the value of writing in the registers of power as well as the ways that literacy standards have been weaponized against communities that have been historically oppressed. Among our responsibilities as a center and as individuals is to reflect on our roles in oppressive systems and aspire for our practices to be more socially just.
Linguistic Justice Requires Action
We must call attention to and dismantle structures of oppression, especially those related to writing and language. We must advocate for and enact linguistic justice in our writing center, at UConn, and in the world. We commit to:
- Making our center a welcoming and accessible environment that offers writers a variety of modalities for tutoring and learning
- Affirming writers’ linguistic strengths and choices and preserving writers’ voices and intentions
- Fostering collaborative peer tutoring dynamics that work to resist unjust power structures
- Initiating discussions about linguistic racism with writers so that they are better able to make informed and reflective decisions about their writing
- Recognizing that, since tutoring sessions are mutual collaborations between writers and tutors, neither participant is obligated to engage with language in ways that run counter to their core ethics and beliefs
- Hosting events and inviting conversations with faculty to keep an antiracist dialogue open and thriving
- Building partnerships and alliances with other organizations that share our antiracist values
- Cultivating diversity intentionally through our hiring practices
- Advocating for students who experience incidents of discrimination or linguistic violence
- Challenging practices that run counter to this statement
- Revisiting and revising this statement regularly.