Race Caucus

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Review by Laura Gonzales

Read more about the Race Caucus on the C&W conference site.

Panelists

Linh Dich, Miami University Middletown
Abigail Scheg, Elizabeth City State University
Douglas Walls, University of Central Florida
Phill Alexander, Miami University

As the first of two (along with the gender caucus) inaugural meetings meant to encourage and preserve identity studies in computers and writing, this year’s race caucus had a clear yet daunting task: to discuss setting goals for what we will do to make our conference more inclusive in the coming years.

Getting Started

The meeting started in a room quickly filling to capacity, as Jill Morris introduced herself and expressed her efforts to establish this caucus as a continual event to be held at future Computers and Writing Conferences. After introducing the presenters, Morris discussed the importance of making a space for conversations about race and identity within the computers and writing community. It is our job, she explained, to highlight and make room for these discussions.

The presenters then proceeded to outline their own interests and goals for the caucus—Phill Alexander explained that issues of race in computers and writing have not always come up, which is why the work of this caucus is so important and representative of progress in our community. Abigail Scheg discussed her interests in assessment and Standard American English and their connections, with particular relation to diversity at her institution. Linh Dich expressed her interests exploring international student recruitment and representations of Asians and Asian Americans in academia, interrogating what difference means in these contexts. Dich reflected on past Computers and Writing conferences and the role of the Graduate Research Network (GRN) in helping her figure out her “professional sense of self,” and she identified the caucus as an avenue to provide additional support for new scholars.

After these brief introductions, members of the caucus were split into three groups to brainstorm goals, ideas, and major issues that should be taken up before next year’s conference:

Making Difference Visible

Issues of race, gender, and sexuality are not separate from conversations about technology. Members of the caucus are interested in coding, usability, and culture, and can bring useful and important perspectives to technology-focused panels. For this reason, caucus members expressed an interest in collaborations between technology, ESL, race, and social justice scholars, among others. They also suggested increasing the visibility and impact of the caucus by proposing a workshop for next year’s conference, building a hub (through Facebook at first) for collaborating, as well as creating flyers and making bookmarks on the schedule for presentations surrounding issues of race and difference. It is important that members attend each other’s sessions, so some efforts will be made to coordinate scheduling that allows the caucus members to support each other in this way.

The caucus noted the value of encouraging future conferences to include keynote speakers doing work in social justice and computers and writing, which is already planned for next year’s conference. Members explained a goal of the caucus is to establish an identity not just about inclusivity, but also about rigorous scholarship that considers the diversity of our field.

Mentorship

Caucus members agreed that one strength of Computers and Writing Conferences is the support and mentorship opportunities available, especially through the GRN. It is important that this mentorship be extended to scholars and students doing important work related to race and social justice. The caucus will continue looking for opportunities to bring and support this type of research to computers and writing. In particular, they will work to support underrepresented new scholars recognized through the Gail E. Hawisher & Cynthia L. Selfe Caring for the Future Award, and will perhaps develop new ways to reach out to students and scholars who are not always made aware or encouraged to apply to the conference. Caucus members will also participate as new discussion leaders to engage with projects related to race and social justice at the GRN. The caucus also expressed interest in doing a better job of inviting and supporting international students to our conferences.

Next Steps

The caucus concluded with members sharing contact information to begin planning future projects. A Facebook group has been established to continue conversations stemming from the meeting. Caucus members are welcoming new participants who want to join the group and to begin thinking about how mentorship can be extended within the community. They are also looking for ideas to make the caucus visible at next year’s conference and within the computers and writing community in general.

After officially concluding, many members of the group stayed around to continue talking and planning. There was vibrant energy in the room as everyone became excited about making computers and writing conferences even more supportive, inclusive, and fulfilling than they have been in previous years.

Laura Gonzales is currently an Instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida. In the Fall of 2013, she will begin to pursue her Ph.D. in Writing and Rhetoric at Michigan State University, where her research will continue to focus on cultural and digital rhetoric.

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