English, Department of


Date of this Version



College Composition and Communication 69:4 (June 2018), pp. 642-668.


Copyright © 2018 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Used by permission.


This essay reports on an interview-based study of ten veteran WPAs, whose three decades of service spans neoliberalism’s growing influence on universities. Our findings trace their enactment of social resilience, a dynamic, relational process that allowed them, even in the face of constraint, to act and to preserve key commitments.

Like most compositionists, and especially WPAs, we feel the restrictive impact of austerity. This sense is reflected in a growing body of research in our field, and most recently in a CCC special issue, where Jonathan Alexander reminds us that “one of the things we know about writing and the teaching of writing . . . is that they are shaped by economic forces” (Alexander 7; see also Welch and Scott; Comstock et al.; Stenberg). Historically tight budgets are now tighter. Arguments to fund writing instruction must be couched in terms of initiatives like “the Chancellor’s Goals” or “innovation for success” and articulated in the context of tuition revenue, markets, student- (or consumer-) “friendliness.” Funding for existing programs that benefit students and teachers alike, such as the writing center, is difficult to secure when it doesn’t offer the shine of a new initiative or the potential for external grant acquisition. Writing instructors and WPAs must navigate the impact of neoliberal pressures that privilege efficiency and austerity, evident in institutional calls for increased enrollments, accelerated degreecompletion rates, ease of transfer, and reduced instructional cost.