CWPA Executive Board Statement in Response to the Recent Call to Boycott the Organization
We, the Executive Board of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, publicly and with great seriousness acknowledge the harm we inflicted on the members of the Outcomes Statement Revision Task Force. This statement offers our apologies for our actions, recognizes those actions as part of a larger and historical pattern in the Council, and briefly outlines immediate and long-term steps the CWPA commits to taking in order to interrogate and interrupt White supremacy in our organization.
The Executive Board deeply regrets our collective conduct during our April 6, 2021 meeting with the Task Force and apologizes to its members for the harm we inflicted on them and the disrespect shown to their labor and expertise. Furthermore, we acknowledge that this mistreatment is symptomatic of the White supremacist culture that the CWPA is unquestioningly steeped in, a culture that has harmed many BIPOC colleagues over the years and has driven many away from the organization. Recognizing White supremacy as a deep-seated characteristic of the Council that manifests both in individual situations like the Executive Board meeting and in the procedures and norms that constitute the organization as a whole, we act on our acknowledgement of responsibility with renewed and sincere commitments to deep, structural change.
The Task Force responded in good faith to our invitation to review the WPA Outcomes Statement in light of advances in writing studies scholarship, with a priority on supporting antiracist pedagogy. The revisions proposed by the antiracist scholars on the Task Force demonstrated the ways in which previous Outcomes Statements had embraced White supremacist educational discourses (such as the language of universal outcomes) and remained silent on the role White supremacy plays in defining the conventions of academic writing.
When invited to ask the Task Force questions about the revised Outcomes Statement, Executive Board members adhered to many Whitely discursive norms that reflected our comfort in CWPA as a White-dominated professional space and failed to anticipate and acknowledge how those norms would affect the Task Force members. By jumping into critical questions about how WPAs would use the new statement without acknowledging the expertise and labor of the Task Force members, we enacted those Whitely norms. By allowing those critical questions to dominate our exchange, by focusing on the critiques the Task Force advanced of prior Statements, and by appealing to policy and precedent when it came time to move forward in the feedback and distribution process, the Executive Board fell into classic White supremacist power-hoarding/delaying tropes when faced with radical, and necessary, changes.
The majority-White members of the Executive Board dismissed, silenced, and questioned the authority of the BIPOC Task Force members. Even more seriously, the Executive Board’s conduct toward the Task Force reflects how BIPOC scholars have been treated in the CWPA organization and at CWPA events throughout the organization's history, which scholars of color have published on and have spoken about publicly, informally, and on social media.
The CWPA boycott that Dr. Asao B. Inoue calls for—instigated by the White supremacy he and others have noted over a period of years—provides a necessary and difficult wakeup call for our organization. It also suggests a path forward for us: in the short term, the Executive Board will suspend normal operations to devote the Council’s resources toward recognizing and interrupting how White supremacy functions in our organization. For rank-and-file CWPA members (or prospective members), a boycott means leaving the organization until it demonstrates that it can promote and support antiracist WPA work and WPAs by thoroughgoing changes to our bylaws, policies, and culture. For elected leaders (including the all-BIPOC ballot of members currently running for election and all those who would like to help steer the organization toward greater equity and inclusivity), it means stopping our regular work to deeply interrogate it with the goal of interrupting the operation of White supremacy in that work.
What will this suspension look like? The Consultant-Evaluator Service will honor the contractual obligations it is already committed to, but will not make arrangements for future visits until it has conducted a similar review and incorporated antiracist principles into its policies, procedures, review guidelines, ethics statement, self-study materials, and training for Consultant-Evaluator panelists. The operation of the WPA Journal will continue into the summer in order to see the production of the forthcoming special issue, Black Lives Matter and Antiracist Projects in Writing Program Administration.The editors and editorial board will then engage in a critical interrogation and revision of every aspect of the journal's operation. CWPA will suspend the next cycle of awards and grants, and will resume them following a comprehensive organizational audit of selection criteria and procedures. Finally, the CWPA President and Vice President will replace the 2021 annual conference with listening sessions and events that will allow CWPA to learn from our members and other colleagues. These sessions will be one of our first steps in reorienting the focus of the organization onto the needs and concerns of the community, rather than our Whitely precedents. We invite all those interested in changing CWPA to join forces to make our organization’s work more representative of all our colleagues.
CWPA will use this suspension of regular activities to devote its organizational resources and attention to a top-to-bottom audit of the Council’s organizational “presence,” policies/position statements, bylaws, election requirements, and procedures. This work will identify how CWPA's practices reflect White supremacist norms and values, and how structural racism intersects with sexism, ableism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic discrimination in our organization. Ideally this work will be guided by BIPOC scholars with appropriate recognition and compensation for their work and expertise, which we recognize would represent a major act of trust and generosity on their part that CWPA's past actions and procedures have done little to earn. However, we recognize that the limited perspective of our majority-White organization and its Executive Board has deeply harmed BIPOC scholars in our field, both in the recent Task Force meeting and throughout CWPA's history. Members of the CWPA Executive Board commit to implementing a concrete, meaningful agenda of change based on the results of this audit during this period of pause and reflection.
We are grateful for the necessary push to make CWPA better for all who share a commitment to antiracist WPA work, and we look forward to building a new vision for CWPA together.
Mark Blaauw-Hara, President
Susan Thomas, Vice President
Dominic DelliCarpini, Immediate Past President
Kelly Blewett, Secretary, ex officio member
Courtney Adams Wooten
Jacob Babb, ex officio member
Annie Del Principe
Gabrielle Isabel Kelenyi, ex officio member
Laura Hardin Marshall, ex officio member
Michael A. Pemberton, ex officio member
Jim Nugent, ex officio member
Katherine Daily O’Meara
Lori Ostergaard, ex officio member
Amanda Presswood, ex officio member
Shirley K Rose, ex officio member