Douglas Eyman
Cape Fear Community College

Contributing author:

Cindy Wambeam
New Mexico State University

Contributing editor:

Mike Salvo


Proposal for a Forum* Session at the 1996 Conference on College Communication and Composition

* Forum sessions, to the best of my knowledge, were introduced at the 1995 4Cs in Washington, DC as an alternative to the read papers format. Forums were designed for brief comments by presenters with the overall goal of stimulating conversation between the presenters and audience participants.
--Judy Williamson

Tyranny and Suffering in Higher Education: The Heart-Rending Plight of the C&W TA

"Polyvocal Proposal" Submitted by:
Judy Williamson, on behalf of the CWTA (Computers and Writing Teaching Asssitants) In collaboration with:

Cindy Wambeam
Michael J. Salvo
Douglas Eyman
Karla Saari Kitalong, online from Michigan Technological University

Graduate students in computers and writing are frequently finding that in order to infuse their departments with information technology, they assume responsibility for teaching English department secretaries, chairs, and faculty about computer use. Despite their leadership roles, they still feel marginalized and under-valued. We are interested in probing some of the political and economic issues at stake for graduate students such as those mentioned below. Our forum will be aimed at both students and faculty with presentations kept deliberately brief in order to foster discussion leading to a shared understanding about the subject position of graduate students in computers and writing and a deeper commitment to recognizing their stature as agents of rhetorical change.

As graduate students continue to push for the chance to make use of new technologies (and the new pedagogies they facilitate), what happens in departments where there are only one or two graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) trying to bring their departments kicking and screaming into the 21st century? It has been my experience that a combination of active (and passive) resistance to technology within the department can be combined with a willingness (perhaps even an eagerness) to exploit the knowledge and abilities of those GTAs--ultimately acting as an extremely destructive force upon those individuals. I'd like to engage in a dialogue with other GTAs who find themselves in this position, discussing how we have survived (or not survived) the isolation, pressure, and institutional and departmental resistance that we have had to deal with.

As English departments realize their need for technological expertise in their departments and with budgets getting tighter and tighter, graduate assistants (TAs, adjuncts, part-timers) are being asked to fill leadership roles in computerized instruction and information technology. Are we being properly compensated given the level of expertise we need in order to perform our jobs? Are we earning the respect we deserve? Is our service to the department recognized for what it is -- academic and teaching experience -- or is it viewed askance as "mere" service? What can be done about this situation? Now there's an organization dedicated to the discussion of these and other issues. Through CWTA, we can pool our knowledge, work with nationally recognized faculty mentors, and support each other's entry into mainstream academia. This presentation will raise these questions and present the CWTA and its activities.

In many departments, graduate assistants (GAs) are responsible for the administration of computer labs and computer classrooms. While this provides a wonderful opportunity for many of us, there are many concerns that need to be addressed. Among them are:

  1. How time-intensive is the job?
  2. Does the job have a reasonable salary?
  3. What sort of authority can a GA have in the lab? in the department? across campus?
  4. Given the rapid turnover in graduate programs, what happens to the lab/classroom when the GA administrator leaves? I'd like to raise these questions and discuss their importance for graduate students given their vulnerable position in the academy.

    CWTA Moo Dialogue CWTA Interview CWTA Editorial CWTA Web Pages

    Contact the Author!