Local Practices, Institutional Positions: Results from the 2003-2004 WCRP National Survey of Writing Centers

by Jo Ann Griffin, Daniel Keller, Iswari Pandey,
Anne-Marie Pedersen, and Carolyn Skinner



Table of Contents

Introduction


Table 1: Respondents by Institution Type


Table 2: Public vs. Private Response



What do writing centers look like?

Table 3: Departmental Affiliation of Writing Centers

Table 4: Physical Location of Writing Centers


Whom do writing centers serve?

Table 5: Writing Center Services by Institution Type




Who are the consultants?


Table 6: Mean hourly wage according to consultant level and institution type.

Table 7: Range of Reported Number of Consultants and Number of Sessions at Writing
Centers According to Institutional Enrollment for Fall 2003



Who are the directors?

Table 8: Comparison of Two Surveys’ Reports of Writing Center Director Degree

Table 9a: Employment Category of 2004 WCRP Director Respondents – Non-Faculty

Table 9b: Employment Category of 2004 WCRP Director Respondents - Faculty

     Table 10: Percentage of Time in Writing Center

Table 11: Percentage of Time in Writing Center and Employment Category

Table 12: Writing Center Director Salary

Table 13: Salary Classifications for Male and Female Directors

Table 14: Associate/Assistant Director Employment Categories



Conclusion






Introduction

            Between September 2004 and March 2005, the Writing Centers Research Project (WCRP) at the University of Louisville conducted the third in a series of biannual surveys, covering the 2003-2004 academic year. The primary goal of this research is to provide the writing center community with much-needed comparable data regarding operational and administrative matters. Benchmark data from a national survey can serve as an effective guide and powerful rhetorical tool for writing center directors as they make decisions about and request funds for additional space, materials, and staff wages. To that end, the survey collects data in the following areas: writing center contact information, operations, tutor/consultant information, student usage, and administrative information.


Methodology

We announced our survey through an e-mail contact list,[1] the Wcenter listserv, the Writing Lab Newsletter, and the Writing Center Journal, inviting writing center directors to fill out the survey at the WCRP website. One benefit of the online survey is that the data from previous surveys remain, so returning respondents only need to record new data. In the long term, the online database will allow us to track changes over time. However, such benefits come at the cost of overall reliability: because we do not know the exact number of potential respondents (as researchers using a mailed survey would), we have no sense of how many people did not respond to our survey. For future surveys, as we announce through more channels and as more directors reply, we hope to gain a larger, more inclusive sample.

Another limitation involves the options respondents had for answering the survey questions. Many questions received non-responses (blanks or zeroes), which were difficult to interpret since the survey did not provide “Don’t Know” and “Not Applicable” response options. For instance, when many directors did not give a response to the question about the total number of OWL conferences, we were uncertain whether they responded this way because they did not have OWLs or because they did not keep track of the number of those conferences. The structure of some questions made it difficult to interpret non-responses. For this reason, in our analysis we will take percentages from the number of respondents who gave a quantifiable answer for each particular question, and not from the total number of survey respondents. We will also speculate on plausible reasons for the lack of responses to certain questions, which we hope will illuminate the lack of data in some areas.

            In addition to the limitations of our survey instrument, we were faced with a problem inherent to making categorical statements about writing centers: local practices at writing centers are so varied that it was difficult to make useful connections between survey categories or to make generalizations on the national level. On the one hand, the diversity of responses indicates the flexibility of writing centers in meeting local needs as they cross traditional institutional boundaries in terms of location and staff. On the other hand, this diversity may make it difficult to draw conclusions about “typical” writing center administration or about how writing centers “ought” to operate. For this reason, readers should be careful when comparing the statistics presented here with the records from their own writing centers.




Overview of Responses

As Table 1 shows, the bulk of the 245 respondents came from 4-year comprehensive universities (with MA or specialist degree programs), research universities, 4-year liberal arts colleges, 2-year post-secondary colleges, and other post-secondary institutions (for example, theological and pharmaceutical schools). Writing centers at secondary institutions made up such a small part of the overall response that they were removed from data analysis beyond the overall response (see Tables 1 and 2). While much can be learned from the writing centers at secondary institutions, it was impossible to glean any meaningful conclusions from seven high schools.

 

                                                                                 Table 1: Respondents by Institution Type n=245

Institution Type

# Respondents

% Respondents

 

 

 

Comprehensive

66

27

Research

61

25

4-Year Liberal Arts

58

24

2-Year Post-Secondary

47

19

Other

6

2

Secondary

7

3


As Table 2 shows, the majority of respondents came from public institutions. Five institutions could identify themselves as neither public nor private.

                                                 
                                                                                                Table 2: Public vs. Private Response n=240

Institution Type

Public

Private

 

 

 

Comprehensive

42

23

Research

44

16

4-Year Liberal Arts

9

46

2-Year Post-Secondary

47

0

Other

3

3

Secondary

3

4

Totals

148

92


The following sections do not represent all of the data culled from the WCRP survey. Survey questions often asked for data by semester or quarter (for example, one question asks how many tutors/consultants worked in the writing center each term in the 2003-2004 academic year). Because we had more complete responses for Fall 2003, we focused our analysis on that set of data. Additionally, we organized our analysis around the following questions, some of which are common questions asked about writing centers:

What do writing centers look like?

Whom do writing centers serve?

 Who are the consultants?

 Who are the directors?

            In structuring our analysis this way, we hope to provide information on many of the key aspects of writing center administration in ways that will be helpful to writing center directors.




What Do Writing Centers Look Like?
 

Affiliation


            Part 2 of the 2003-2004 WCRP survey asked respondents to situate their center within the university community. “Writing Center Operations” questions sought to identify relationships that influence funding and support as well as location and physical resources. Within the same section, other questions asked respondents to describe their center’s scope: longevity, hours of operation, and modes of communication.

While 27% (n=219) of respondents identified their writing centers as "Independent" to some degree, a recent Wcenter listserv conversation makes clear that "independence" is a slippery concept. Participants in the listserv conversation explored varying definitions of “free-standing” as applied to writing centers and commented on the institutional forces and trends influencing transitions from English and Composition-based programs to “independent” or “free-standing” service centers. “Free-standing” might, according to this conversation, refer to the creation of a “full-time director’s position” (Bagley) as well as a formal existence “outside of the English Department or the Writing program” (Wislocki). Further discussion makes clear that even when direct funding originates outside of any department, tenure, teaching assistantships, and course release arrangements are inevitably tied to departmental resources. The 2003-2004 WCRP survey should be read against this backdrop.

Of centers responding to queries about departmental or program affiliation, 39% (n=219) identified some connection with the English Department. Simultaneously, 10% (n=219) reported a structural relationship with a university-wide component. The bases for these affiliations, when identified, include location of tenure, course release arrangements, and funding mechanisms. Only 29% reported English as their primary program affiliation (n=219). Rhet/Comp or Writing Program affiliations are reported by 12% of respondents, and just under 1% are based in communications programs. Only 5% of centers responding reported a departmental affiliation other than English, Rhet/Comp, Writing, or Communications (Table 3).   

   

                                                                                                     Table 3: Departmental Affiliation of Writing Centers

Primary Affiliation

% of Responses to Affiliation Queries n=219

 

 

English

29%

Independent

27%

Rhet Comp or Writing

12%

Learning Skills or Student Services

10%

English + a University-wide Entity

10%

College or University-wide Entity

8%

Other Programs

5%

Communications

1%

 

            In this survey, 10% (n=219) of respondents reported centers aligned with either Learning Skills Centers or Student Services programs. Two decades have passed since Lynne Loschky surveyed Writing Lab Newsletter readers to determine “standard practices” of centers employing “peer tutors” (2). At that time, “almost half” of Loschky’s respondents reported working in or being attached to “study skills centers” or “student special services,” a particular kind of “Drop-In” center (3). While it is impossible to compare data across the two surveys, the notable difference in reported associations with skills centers should prompt us to ask whether these disparate responses suggest a trend toward writing centers identified as different and separate from other institutional learning centers. In the 2003-2004 WCRP survey, 8% of respondents (n=219) reported existing primarily as a function of a college-wide or university-wide unit such as a dean's office, a provost's office, the college of arts and sciences or an office of academic affairs.

Despite strong ties to English, Rhet/Comp, and Writing Departments, respondents’ comments reinforce a perception of centers striving for a non-departmental image. In addition to the 10% of respondents answering “other” to questions about their departmental affiliation and specifying a university-wide entity, a few respondents commented that, for example, they cover “all subjects” or “all disciplines.” One commented on efforts to change a university-wide perception of the writing center as “English Department affiliated,” adding that “with the introduction of our CAC program next year, we would like to make the center more interdisciplinary.” In his 1998 article “Writing Centers in Times of Whitewater,” Lester Faigley recognizes the complications involved with the anti-hierarchical, multidisciplinary position of writing centers.  Faigley finds strength in writing centers operating “outside the course and degree structure” as a model for institutions that must “have the flexibility to adjust to different needs as they arise at a time when more and more people will need additional education” (15). At the same time, however, Faigley notes the “tenuous” nature of funding for services operating beyond departmental structure (15), an issue also addressed by Harvey Kail in 2000 when he characterized his writing center budget as a collection of “‘donations’ from the community, a form of ritualized giving from a variety of units on campus,” a budget that is “broad based but unstable” (27).

The 2003-2004 WCRP survey also describes ongoing complexity in definitions of who writing centers serve and how they are funded. Survey questions asking for writing center affiliation, for example, offered the following options: Independent, English Department, Rhetoric/Composition Department, Learning Skills Center, Student Services, and Other. Respondents choosing “other” frequently explained their affiliation not in terms of disciplinary affiliation but in terms of populations served or sources of funding. Comments specify, for example: “all disciplines”; “English but Center covers all subjects – WAC”;English Dept. ONLY in that they release me from part of my faculty teaching”; funding “through the Associate Academic Vice President's office”; and “Operating budget comes from A & S Dean; salary for program assistant comes from Provost.” This complex of relationships explains the split personality expressed by Lisa Ede in a listserv posting that describes her lines of reporting: “I am tenured in the English department. My responsibilities include 1/2 time teaching in the English department and 1/2 time directing the Center for Writing and Learning. So when I say that I've never reported to the chair of the English department, I'm referring to the part of me that directs the CWL” (emphasis added). In “What’s Next for Writing Centers?” Joyce Kinkead and Jeanette Harris express a belief in writing centers “poised to assume a more prominent role [. . .] central to the mission of the school and essential to its being competitive in terms of attracting and retaining students” (24). Both the 2003-2004 WCRP survey and current anecdotal reports suggest that if such a transition is underway, it will be complicated.

 

Location

It is clear from reports of physical location that "independence" refers primarily to funding and reporting structures since only 2% (n=218) of the centers responding to queries about physical location reported free-standing facilities (writing centers located in their own buildings). Similarly, only 2% reported multiple locations, a response suggesting that Kail’s and Kinkead and Harris’s predictions of increasingly distributed influence have not yet been fulfilled. Most writing centers (52%) inhabit space in classroom buildings. The next most frequently reported location is space in the University library; 16% of the respondents reported this location. Another 10% are located either in or adjacent to learning skills centers or broad-based student services facilities. Writing centers physically located within academic departments comprise 5% of the total. An intriguing 1% report a location within or adjacent to residence halls (Table 4).

 

                                                                                                          Table 4: Physical Location of Writing Centers

Reported Writing Center Locations

% of Responses to Location Queries n=218

 

 

Classroom Buildings

52%

Library

16%

Other

11%

Learning Skills or Student Services Facilities

10%

Academic Departments

5%

Multiple

2%

Free-Standing

2%

Residential

1%


According to the survey, writing center facilities ranged in size from a maximum of 12,500 square feet to a minimum of 20. The median square footage comes to 1000. To identify any associations between square footage (the physical size of writing centers) and writing center usage, we conducted a series of partial correlation analyses to control for the potential confounding effects of number of consultants, enrollment, and average session time on writing center usage as defined by the number of conferences and the number of unrepeated student visits in a semester.[2] The results of these analyses suggest that the square footage of writing centers likely affects usage as defined by number of conferences, even when the analysis controls for the size of the consulting staff, enrollment in the institution, and length of the average session (r = .22, p = .053 when the data are logarithmically transformed to induce normality). The analysis suggests that increased space in the writing center will likely correlate with an increase in the number of conferences, regardless of the size of the student body or client base.

Longevity

Approximately one third of the respondents who answered queries about years in existence (n=191) reported that their center has been open fewer than 10 years. Another third have existed 10 years but not 20. The remaining third have been in operation between 20 and 54 years. Fifty-two centers, or 28% of those responding to queries about longevity of the current center as well as longevity of any center at the institution (n=183), reported that the current center has existed for fewer years than the institution has had a center. The median age at which centers report new startups is 6 (Min=2, Max=35). It is unclear from the data whether these new startups represent satellite locations for existing centers, new centers with distinct identities, or restructurings of existing centers. The natural question arising from the data asks whether writing centers are in the midst of a fundamental shift in structure, function, positioning within the university, service mission, or all of these, a question the WCRP survey is not designed to answer.

Typical Session Profile

According to respondents, 45% of writing centers (n=149) plan for 50-60 minute sessions. Another 14% plan for 30 minutes. Centers reporting no maximum session time amount to 25% of responses to the question. Even for those centers reporting fixed session maximums, comments indicated that flexibility is key and that extensions may be granted based on the center's workload (whether clients are waiting), individual client needs (including disability and ESL status), and length of the text under discussion. In practice, most sessions (66% where n=195) last 30-40 minutes. Another 28% last 50 minutes on average. Only 1% last 15 minutes, and 4.6% last 60 minutes or longer.[3]  To complete these sessions, the median number of consultants employed by writing centers is 13 (Max=108, Min=1, n=188). Most centers reported being open between 40 and 84 hours (25% at 0 - 39 hours per week and another 35% open from 40 – 48 hours per week). A substantial percentage of centers (37%) stay open from 49 – 84 hours (a 12 hour per day schedule, 7 days a week yields 84 hours). The minimum number of hours per week reported is 4. The maximum is 640. Responses exceeding a 12 hour per day, 7 day per week schedule may reflect multiple locations or calculations of available OWL hours.

The median reported number of unduplicated users per semester is 400 (Min=20, Max=2837, n=79). The number of visits per semester reported for purposes other than conferences varies widely. The maximum reported is 54,180; the minimum is 10. Visits to the center for purposes other than conferences may include workshops, classes, or use of other writing center resources.


Whom Do Writing Centers Serve?

 

Students and Faculty/Staff

The survey data indicate that most writing center resources were available for use by both students and faculty/staff. Eighty-five percent of respondents (n=238) stated that their writing center services were used by more than one group of users, while only 7% of respondents reported that their services were meant exclusively for undergraduate and graduate students. The WCRP survey results also indicate that writing centers were the major writing support services available to students. A majority of respondents (62.5%, n=216) stated that they had no other writing-related support or services available on campus.

Even when writing-related services other than those provided by the writing center existed, they almost always had a limited scope. For example, three respondents mentioned writing tutoring as part of “athletic services,” three mentioned additional writing support services for “ESL students,” two mentioned the existence of writing services in residence halls, and one mentioned the existence of a “community learning center.” Respondents reported a range of other forms of writing-related services available at their institutions, including a “Spanish Learning Center,” a “Career Center (for help w/resumes and cover letters),” a “Learning Center (basic writers),” and “Graduate Writing Services in Social Work, Law, Public Policy, & Nursing.” These responses suggest that most “other” writing-related services are restricted to certain categories of students, sometimes with remedial connotations, or to those in certain disciplines.

While a variety of writing-related services are available across some campuses, writing centers often serve a range of students themselves. A recent discussion on the Wcenter listserv suggests the effects of both student diversity and the presence of other writing support services on campus on writing center operations. Alan Coulter states that developmental students on his campus “have their own writing lab,” and that the writing center “will accept them if they need additional help.” Meanwhile, some members on the same listserv suggest that “the funding source(s) usually determine(s)” who uses writing center services (Black), while others argue that writing centers’ own missions should help decide who uses those services (Salem).[4] Because the survey only addressed entities that self-identified as “writing centers,” some students who are served by other units that perform similar work may not be represented here.

The 2003-2004 WCRP survey data shows that undergraduate students are the major recipients of writing center services. Eighty-five percent of respondents (n= 238) indicated that writing center services are available to undergraduate students, and 47% of respondents stated that graduate students also receive services in their writing centers. Since most postsecondary institutions educate more undergraduate than graduate students, undergraduate students represent a higher proportion of writing center users. By institution type, 92% of responding writing centers at comprehensive universities, 91% of responding writing centers at four-year liberal arts colleges, and 82% of responding writing centers at research universities reported that they provide services to undergraduate students. These numbers do not indicate the services available to undergraduates at each institution type; instead, they indicate how individual directors described the clientele of their writing centers.[5] Across the board, 17% (n=238) of respondents reported that writing center services are used exclusively by undergraduate students, while 7% of centers responding to the survey identified graduate students as the sole users of their services. As reported in Table 5, many writing centers also offered their services to faculty and staff. However, one four-year liberal arts college (>2%), eight comprehensive universities (12%, n=66), and an equal number of research universities (13%, n=66) reported that they restrict their writing center services to students (graduate and undergraduate) only.

                                                                                                                  Table 5: Writing Center Services by Institution Type
 

Institution Type

Services to Undergrads Only

Services to Undergrads and Graduate Students

Services to All, Including Faculty/Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comprehensive

 n=66

61

92

52

79

46

70

4-Year Liberal Arts

n=58

53

91

12

21

32

55

Research

n=61

50

82

43

70

36

59

2-Year Post-Secondary

n=47

36

77

N/A

N/A

27

57

Other

n=6

3

50

5

83

5

83


English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) Students/Writers

Survey respondents seemed to find it easy to classify students in terms of their degree status, such as graduate and undergraduate, but difficult to break the number down into other descriptive categories such as native and non-native users of English, or domestic ESL and international ESL students.[6]  For example, only 21% of survey respondents were able to answer a question about the number of ESL students served by their writing centers. The median number of ESL student conferences (among those who reported numbers) in the Fall of 2003 was 45, with a maximum of 1500, and a minimum of just one.

The low number of responses to the query about ESL students might give the impression that non-native English speakers—whether US citizens or foreign students—are either not present in many colleges and universities or use writing center services in small numbers. In order to understand these unexpected results in proper perspective, we need to keep in mind a recent demographic reality in US institutions of higher learning, scholarship in ESL writing in these institutions, as well as recent conversations on the Wcenter listserv. These resources and anecdotal evidence suggest that very few, if any, colleges and universities in the United States are made up exclusively of native speakers of English today. Nor does any empirical study exist to suggest that non-native writers of English are less likely to use writing center services in any institution. In fact, our own experience at the University of Louisville suggests that these writers, whether American or foreign, use such services as much as, if not more than, other writers. Recent conversations on the Wcenter listserv confirm that ESL students visit writing centers in high numbers; one listserv participant wrote, “more than half of our students are ESL students” (Mawhorter; see also Garbus). Similarly, the US Census Bureau reports an unprecedented growth of non-European population in recent decades,[7] and this is reflected in the growing presence of ESL and/or multilingual students in college classrooms (Matsuda). Against these realities, it is only logical to think that ESL students use writing support services at more than the approximately one-fifth of the institutions our survey responses seem to suggest.

Therefore, it may be safely said that many respondents found it difficult to respond accurately to this question because they either did not have exact records or a system to identify ESL writers or because writers did not always self-identify as ESL. The other potential reason—that ESL writers might have used services especially meant for them—does not seem plausible, for only three respondents identified those services on campus. Therefore, it may be possible that ESL writers chose not to identify as ESL to resist being marked as “other.”  While “ESL” is sometimes used to describe multilingual students with a basic or elementary level of proficiency in English, it is also used exclusively to describe English language students in programs such as intensive English as a second language (IESL). In some cases, students with a fairly good command of English might be reluctant to call themselves ESL because of its remedial connotation, while on the other hand its association with international visa students makes many domestic multilingual writers uncomfortable with identifying themselves as ESL. Likewise, some writers may have been speaking a variety of English or “world english” all their lives, and ESL or “non-native” is simply not applicable to their cases. In any case, these writers may not consider themselves fully assimilated into the mainstream (American) English-speaking culture, but they may not have wanted to be seen as separate from the rest of the writing center’s users.

Online Writing Lab/Learning Centers

Responses to the question about online writing labs/centers (OWL) were equally intriguing. While only 37 institutions (16%) indicated that they had OWL services available in the Fall semester of 2003, a recent Wcenter listserv discussion (“What is an online writing center?) suggests that not everybody conceptualizes OWLs the same way. Referring to Jo Koster’s work, James Inman says that “online writing center” is currently used to refer to anything from online web sites providing “information about in-person writing centers” and “those that provide online resources but no online tutoring” to “those that provide online tutoring.”  In his recent research, Peter England found that many of the so-called “online writing centers” offered nothing other than some contact information, handouts, and the like. The fact that this conversation continued into 2005 means that “OWL” is still used to refer to as diverse species of services as it was in 1996, when, in the first issue of Kairos, Jane Lasarenko classified “self-styled” OWLs into three kinds: i) those that exist to “advertise” a traditional writing center online, “listing hours, services offered, and location”; ii) those that offer “on-site tutoring services” and handouts; and iii) those that “offer a complete set of online services, including online manuscript submission and feedback.” It is the second but mostly third kind of OWLs that serious scholarship in OWLs explores to examine “its own look-and-feel” (Monroe 3). However, the writing center community seems interested in using OWLs to offer a wide range of online services. Many provide only support services (such as handouts and useful links) to supplement in-person conferences and, if the Wcenter conversation is any indication, only a few offer actual online conferences.

The data from the Fall of 2003 showed a median of 74 online conferences, with a maximum of 1131 and a minimum of 10. In the survey, respondents were asked to count only such conferences as “e-mail consultations, center-sponsored chat groups, or center-sponsored online courses” as online consultations. The survey also specified that “web hits” should not figure into the number of consultations. Against the backdrop of contemporary Wcenter conversation, however, it cannot be ascertained whether all of the 37 respondents meant the same thing by “online consultations.”  An issue related to the number of online consultations is the number of consultants who work online. Of the 238 respondents who answered the survey question about the number of online consultants, 17% stated that they had at least one online writing consultant; the median reported number of consultants was 3, but answers ranged from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 80. The survey data and other anecdotal evidence suggest that definitions of OWLs and online consultations are still being negotiated by the writing center community and point to a huge variety in practices.


Who Are the Consultants?

Consultant Background

            The survey contained a section seeking information about writing center consultants. In this section, respondents were asked about the number of consultants, how many hours consultants work per week, how consultants are compensated for their work, and the educational level of consultants. According to survey results, most writing centers seem to employ a variety of personnel—few respondents reported that their writing centers are staffed by only one of the categories offered by the survey (undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, work-study employees, professionals, or volunteers). Respondents who reported that their writing centers’ personnel are made up of only one category of consultant are at institutions whose student populations necessitate such staffing. For example, the category most frequently chosen exclusively was “undergraduate” (45 respondents chose this option; n=204), and 87% (39) of those choosing that category are at four-year liberal arts or comprehensive institutions, which have only undergraduate and Master’s-level students from which to draw. Likewise, the eight writing centers in which personnel are exclusively graduate students are located at research institutions, and the six writing centers in which personnel are exclusively faculty are at two-year colleges, where there are few upper-level students to serve as a pool for writing center consultants.

            Most respondents (138, or 68%) reported that their writing center personnel are drawn from more than one category of consultant. In fact, 28% (66) of the 204 who responded to this question report that their writing center personnel come from three or more categories of consultants.

 

Compensation

            Survey responses indicate that writing center personnel are compensated for their work in a variety of ways—course release, work-study, stipends, tuition remission, course credit, hourly pay, or combinations of these. Many writing center directors reported that they have little control over their consultants’ compensation, or over if and when consultants receive pay increases. Respondents offered comments such as “Institution has determined the compensation for student workers,” “Tutors are hired as work-study employees, and make the minimum wage regardless of length/quality of service,” “There is no room for pay advancement since $7.50 is the top of the student wage scale,” and “Our graduate assistants’ stipend is determined by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. We have no control over the amount.” Compensation is often related to education and experience, but at some institutions the consultants start at the highest pay rate for their employment category at their university, so there is no room to offer higher wages to individual consultants.

            The survey asked respondents to provide the average hourly wage for consultants at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. We averaged those responses to arrive at the pay rates depicted in Table 6. The mean hourly wage for undergraduates across all institution types is $7.01 (n=151, SD=1.54); the minimum reported wage is $5.00 per hour, and the maximum is $12 per hour. Of the 151 who responded to this question, 45 (30%) pay undergraduates $7.00 an hour, and 30 (20%) pay undergraduates $8.00 an hour. Nine (6%) paid $10.00 or more an hour.

Table 6: Mean hourly wage according to consultant level and institution type.

 

Undergraduate

Graduate

Professional

 

 

 

 

All Institutions

$7.01

(n=151; SD=1.54)

$10.52

(n=72; SD=4.3)

$15.76

(n=41; SD=5.7)

Two-Year Post-Secondary

$7.15

(n=20; SD=1.3)

$10.33

(n=6; SD=1.4)

$13.43

(n=14; SD=5.4)

Four-Year Liberal Arts

$6.50

(n=44; SD=1.3)

$7.33

(n=6; SD=2.6)

See note*

Comprehensive

$6.96

(n=49; SD=1.57)

$9.59

(n=23; SD=3.0)

$16.43

(n=14; SD=5.3)

Research

$7.60

(n=35; SD=1.7)

$11.97

(n=34; SD=5.2)

$17.27

(n=11; SD=6.6)

                                                                                          *Only two writing centers at four-year liberal arts institutions provided information on the
                                                                                           wages of professional consultants. They reported paying
these consultants $18.00
                                                                                           and $20.00 per hour.

  
         While undergraduate consultants’ positions as simultaneously students and employees is complicated, graduate students who work as consultants in writing centers have the added complication of cultivating a professional place for themselves within academia. In her article discussing the unique position of graduate student writing consultants, Connie Snyder Mick describes the complex role they play: “No matter how well graduate students can identify with undergraduates as they both write papers, take tests, and receive grades for their work, graduate students’ role in the university is complicated by the other rewards they can receive from the university, through both financial and professional assistance” (38). The place of writing center work in a graduate student consultant’s graduate school experience should be kept in mind when considering the following numbers. Other factors influencing graduate student hourly pay rates are alternative forms of compensation including stipends, tuition remission, and course releases; in addition, some graduate students take on extra responsibilities in administering writing centers.

            Across all institution types, the mean wage for graduate students who are paid by the hour is $10.52 (n=72, SD=4.3). The highest hourly wage reported for graduate consultants is $27.00 and the lowest is $5.00. Research institutions pay a little above the mean at $11.97 per hour (n=34, SD=5.2), and four-year liberal arts schools pay well below the mean at only $7.33 per hour (n=6, SD=2.6). The hourly wages of graduate student consultants should be interpreted cautiously. Many respondents reported that graduate student consultants at their writing center receive stipends; some respondents may have extrapolated an hourly wage from the stipend while others did not respond to this question because the data they had did not answer the question the survey asked.

            The mean wage for professional writing center consultants across all institutions is $15.76 per hour (n=41, SD=5.7). The highest hourly wage reported for professional consultants is $30.00 and the lowest is $8.00. Professional consultants working at two-year institutions earn a mean of $13.43 per hour (n=14, SD= 5.4); the mean wage of those at comprehensive institutions is $16.43 per hour (n=14, SD=5.3); research institutions reported a mean wage slightly above the average at $17.27 per hour (n=11, SD=6.6).

            Because consultants are compensated for their work in a variety of monetary, educational, and professional ways, determining how they earn raises is difficult. Several respondents described pay structures in which consultants receive raises after taking a writing center-related course or after working a certain number of hours or semesters. Some respondents reported that they schedule pay increases annually, while others reported that their personnel receive raises when the institution’s administrators decide to give raises to the entire university (or to the employee class to which writing center personnel belong). Many writing center directors seemed to have little control over both what their consultants earn and the criteria determining pay increases. Some reported that no system exists for implementing raises at their writing centers.

Working in a Writing Center

            The survey also asked respondents to provide information on the number of hours consultants work per week and the number of conferences performed in the writing center per semester. In analyzing these numbers, we looked for correlations with institutional enrollment. The responses suggest that writing center consultants work about the same number of hours a week regardless of the size of the institution in which they work. The mean number of hours per week that respondents said an average consultant at their writing center works is 13.16 (n=198, SD=5.7). Based on respondents’ comments, this number seems to be determined at least partially by work-study requirements and the number of hours of tutoring considered equivalent to teaching one classroom course. The number of conferences per semester differs significantly, even among writing centers at institutions with similar enrollments. While correlations of institution size with the number of conferences per semester did not yield statistically significant results, some interesting details emerged. For example, 6 of the 29 writing centers in institutions with enrollment at or under 1500 reported that the number of conferences in one semester was higher than their institutions’ enrollment for that semester. We also found that high enrollment does not always correlate with high numbers of consultants or sessions: one writing center at an institution with enrollment below 1500 reported having 72 consultants, while a writing center at an institution with an enrollment between 10,001 and 25,000 reported having only 3 consultants. The greatest number of sessions in the Fall semester (5624) was reported in the highest enrollment category (greater than 25,000), but the fewest sessions for the same semester (17) occurred in an institution with between 1501 and 3500 students—the second smallest enrollment category. Numbers of consultants and sessions depend on a number of factors: writing center publicity, institutional climate, availability of consultants, session length, and other local circumstances. A writing center is affected by so much more than its institution’s size that average numbers of consultants and sessions do not represent individual writing centers well. A sense of the range of responses to questions about the number of consultants and sessions can be gained from Table 7.


Table 7: Range of Reported Number of Consultants and Number of Sessions at Writing
Centers According to Institutional Enrollment for Fall 2003

Institutional Enrollment

Number of Consultants

Number of Sessions

 

Low

High

Low

High

 

 

 

 

 

0-1500

0

72

30

1480

1501-3500

3

50

17

2405

3501-10,000

4

50

200

4200

10,001-25,000

3

80

457

4740

25,001 and up

13

108

1478

5624

 

The number of consultants working in each writing center varies widely. Twenty-six respondents (n=189) reported that 5 or fewer consultants work in their writing centers, while 22 reported large staffs numbering 30 or more. Ninety-nine writing centers were clustered in a range between 6 and 15 consultants. The variation in the number of consultants working in writing centers suggests that different images are evoked by the phrase “writing center”: in discussions of writing centers, everyone may imagine his or her own writing center—its atmosphere, pace, and tone—but these numbers suggest how widely individual writing centers may differ.

One factor that may be affecting the demographics of writing center consultants is the requirement by many accrediting bodies that graduate teaching assistants accumulate several hours of graduate-level coursework before they can teach in classrooms. Some institutions meet this requirement by assigning first-year GTAs to writing centers. In addition to influencing who works as consultants, this scheme affects the position of writing centers relative to writing programs, because the writing center takes on the role of orienting new GTAs to Composition theory and practice.

 

Titles

            Despite Lex Runciman’s concerns about the term, of respondents who chose only one title to name the people who work with writers in writing centers, most (102) chose “tutors.” This represents 51% of the 201 responses to this question.[8] The second most popular title is “consultants,” which represents 23% of responses. Several respondents offered titles not listed as options in the survey: “Academic Assistant,” “Academic Skills Instructor,” “Counselor,” “Instructor,” “Intern,” “Mentor,” “Peer Mentor,” “Reader,” “Responder,” “Teacher of Academic Writing,” “Undergraduate Teaching Assistant,” “Writing Assistant,” “Writing Associate,” “Writing Fellow,” and “Writing Specialist.” These responses, which are among the 15 that fell into the category “Other,” along with the 27 respondents who chose more than one title, suggest that writing centers position their employees and their work within their institutions in a range of ways.


Who Are the Directors?


Previous Research on Directors

The survey data suggest that writing center directors are a diverse group of individuals whose job conditions and duties vary widely. Detailing this diversity and looking for any commonalities were two main goals of the survey data analysis. Another goal was to compare as much of the data as possible to data from Dave Healy’s earlier national survey (published in 1995) to learn if and how the position of writing center directors has changed. Although the WCRP survey’s section on writing center directors and Dave Healy’s survey sought much of the same information, the two surveys have significant differences, which meant that we could not always compare our results to those from Healy’s study. Healy’s analysis is restricted to full-time positions, while we include part-time positions. Healy’s study also had a slightly larger sample than ours had: Healy analyzed a sample of 273 surveys, while we analyzed only 238. Despite the limitations, a comparison of the two surveys does suggest some interesting trends in writing center administration.

Degree

Writing center directors who responded to the survey’s question about director’s highest level of education reported a variety of degrees, from BA and specialized certificates (such as TESL certification) to PhDs. Despite this variety, a closer look at the numbers suggests a near consensus on the requirement of a graduate degree for this administrative position. Of those who answered this question (n= 167), 98% specified a graduate degree as their highest degree, with 49% reporting their highest degree as a PhD and 47% reporting their highest degree as an MA.[9] A comparison of the 2003-2004 WCRP survey to Healy’s suggests that the percentage of writing center directors holding a graduate degree in 2003-2004 was very similar to the percentage reported in Healy’s 1995 article. Ninety-six percent of the directors responding to Healy’s survey reported their highest degree as graduate (30), compared to the 2003-2004 WCRP’s 98%. A breakdown by type of graduate degree, however, suggests that the number of directors with PhDs may have risen slightly in the past ten years (see Table 8).

Table 8: Comparison of Two Surveys’ Reports of Writing Center Director Degree

 

Respondents with a Graduate Degree

Respondents with an MA

Respondents with a PhD

 

 

 

 

Healy’s Survey n=248

(published 1995)

 

96%

44%

40%

WCRP Survey n=167

(published 2005)

98%

47%

49%


Gender

The data from the 2003-2004 WCRP survey suggest that writing center directors tend to be female, a finding consistent with Healy’s earlier survey. Eighty percent (n=238) of the writing center directors who responded to the 2003-2004 survey are female. The percentage of female writing center directors seems not to have changed much in the past decade: Healy reported that 74% (n=271) of directors were female (30).

 

Employment Category

The WCRP survey also investigated the employment categories of the directors, asking directors to choose from one of six categories to describe their position: graduate student/assistant, non-faculty professional staff, non-tenured full-time faculty, part-time faculty, tenure-track faculty, and tenured faculty. Although no one category had a majority of respondents, once grouped into the two categories of faculty and non-faculty (see Table 9), a clear majority emerged: the majority of directors (65.2%) reported faculty positions. Since the benefits and working conditions of writing center directors with faculty status may vary from institution to institution, and the survey provided no opportunity for individual directors to specify what their status means, it is difficult to interpret what the prevalence of faculty status positions means for the profession as a whole.

Table 9a: Employment Category of 2004 WCRP Director Respondents – Non-Faculty

Director Status

Number

%

 

 

 

Graduate Teaching Assistant

1

.6

Other Non-Faculty

56

34

Total

57

34.6

 

Table 9b: Employment Category of 2004 WCRP Director Respondents - Faculty

Director Status

Number

%

 

 

 

Non-Tenurable, Full-time Faculty

35

21

Part-time Faculty

5

3

Tenure-track Faculty

43

26

Tenured Faculty

25

15

Total

108

65


         Unlike faculty status, tenure status has a standard meaning across institutions. Of the directors responding to the question of employment category, only 41% reported a tenured or tenurable position. This suggests that a majority of directors do not have, and are not in line to have tenure, nor do they have the job security and academic freedom that many people associate with tenure. The percentage of tenured or tenurable faculty director positions seems not to have changed much in the past ten years. Healy’s findings were very similar to those of the 2003-2004 WCRP survey: in Healy’s survey 46% (n=264) of respondents reported holding tenure-track positions (30).

The many non-tenured (or non-tenure-track) writing center director positions may suggest that the position often lacks institutional status in administrators’ eyes. The high percentage of non-tenurable writing center directors may also be related to the positioning of many writing centers outside specific academic departments. Without a clear departmental affiliation, a writing center director may have no access to a tenure-line position. Whatever the cause, without tenured or tenurable positions, writing center directors often do not have the institutional authority to make important decisions about their centers. Neil Lerner discusses writing center director status, arguing that although some writing centers and their directors have gained acceptance and status, the field still abounds with undervalued directors and under-funded centers. The survey results seem to confirm Lerner’s description of the profession of writing center directors as “bifurcated into the ‘haves’ and ‘the have-nots’” (34)—those with tenure and job security and those without.

The value of tenure-track, faculty director positions has also been discussed in a recent Wcenter listserv thread entitled “At will vs. contractual employment” that began in response to a posting for a staff writing center director position. Posts to this thread point out that tenure-track faculty positions generally allow a director more authority over resources. According to some postings to the thread, these resources include not only money spent on the center, but also money spent on and for the individual director, including travel money and support for the director’s scholarly research. People who posted to the thread also mention respect from people in the institution and job security as other advantages of faculty, tenure-track status.

On the other hand, one contributor to the thread, Marcia Toms, argued that non-faculty, non-tenure track positions can have benefits similar to those of tenure-track positions:

One more point to add: just because a WC director is in a staff position doesn't mean many of the TT [Tenure Track] perks can't be there. My Division has paid for my travel to professional conferences, sprung for me to attend the IWCA Summer Institute, supports the time I want to spend writing an article, and just generally values the work we do.

Postings to the thread also demonstrate that job category is only one factor that influences the duties and benefits of a writing center director position. Union contracts and the writing center’s position within the institution are two more factors that may affect job stability and control over resources. In her posting to the thread, Elizabeth Boquet describes the complexities of determining the most effective employment category for a director:

As if we didn't all know this already, these are complicated questions. There's no doubt that faculty, staff, administrative positions enable and constrain in different ways and there are as many reasons to take one or the other as there are people in them.


Percentage of Time and Appointments

The 2003-2004 WCRP survey data suggest that a director’s percentage of academic appointment in the writing center varies widely, with no one percentage dominating the field. The percentage with the most responses was 100% (see Table 10); however, these responses constituted only 28% of the total responses to this question (n=155). This question had one of the lowest response rates of all the director questions. One explanation for the lack of responses is the difficulty directors may have in describing their time in the writing center with the percentages offered on the survey.

                                                                                       Table 10: Percentage of Time in Writing Center n=155

% of Appointment in Writing Center

# of Respondents reporting this appointment %

% of Total Respondents to the Question

 

 

 

100%

43

28%

50%

38

25%

25%

20

13%

75%

14

9%

10%

12

8%

33%

11

7%

66%

9

6%


            Respondents’ discursive comments about specific duties and division of time demonstrate that a writing center director may wear many hats. According to the comments, some positions require that as much as 80% of a director’s time be spent teaching and only 20% devoted to the writing center, while other positions require directors to dedicate the majority of their appointment time to the center, while also teaching one or two courses a semester. Other directors reported dividing their time in different ways. One respondent reported being “half-time co-director; half-time writing & teaching consultant.” Another respondent was a graduate student as well as a writing center director, and still another director ran the learning center, to which the writing center belonged.

Beyond teaching and heading the writing center, directors often have many other responsibilities. One director seemed to have enough duties to fill two full-time positions, with a contract “for the WC only, but” a workload that included “2 or 3 courses a semester” as well as directing the Composition program and assisting with at least 2 other programs.

Judging from postings to a 1999 Wcenter listserv thread, the separation of writing center duties from other duties is not always clear for a director (thread begun by George). For example, contributors to this thread point out that instruction of tutor/consultant preparation courses is sometimes included in a director’s writing center time, while at other institutions, the director does not count this course as writing center time and receives a course release to teach the practicum.

Analysis of the survey data shows that a director’s percentage appointment in the writing center may be connected to the director’s employment category. The data on employment category and percentage appointment seem to correlate positively. Tenure-track writing center director positions seem to correlate with smaller percentage appointments in the writing center. Roughly 80% of tenured or tenure-track directors who responded to the question about appointment with a specific percentage (n= 59) have a half-time or smaller percentage appointment as director of the writing center. Conversely, the data suggest that non-tenurable and non-tenure-track status correlates with larger percentages of time in the writing center (See Table 11). Of the directors who reported working full-time in the writing center and who reported their rank (n= 43), a large majority hold non-tenured faculty status (81%).

Table 11: Percentage of Time in Writing Center and Employment Category n=155

 

Percentage of Appointment in the Writing Center

Non-Tenure Track Writing Center Director Positions

Tenured and Tenure Track

Writing Center Director Positions

 

 

 

10%

4

8

25%

5

15

33%

4

7

50%

21

17

66%

7

2

75%

12

2

100%

35

8


The survey also asked respondents to describe their contract appointments as one of the following four choices: academic year only, 10-month contract, 11-month contract, or 12-month contract. Of those who responded (n=160), 41% had a ten-month appointment, 33% a 12-month appointment, 21% an academic year appointment, and 6% had an 11-month appointment.

Time Working as Director

The survey data suggest that the time directors have held their positions at their current writing centers also run the gamut, anywhere from less than one year to 26 years. The majority of those who responded to this question, (58%, n=162) have five or fewer years of experience in the position. On the high end, 10% of directors have held their jobs for 15 or more years. The mean was 6.3 years, with a standard deviation of 5.7. Of respondents to this question, 20% have a year or less of experience in that job. The data could be read as suggesting that these directors are new to the job; however, these directors may have experience in other writing centers or they may have rotating writing center positions.

 



Salary

The response rate for the annual salary question was low, with only 159 of the total 238 survey respondents answering. As is the case in many surveys, some respondents may have been uncomfortable reporting their income. Outside of the survey, at least one respondent reported being too embarrassed by a low salary to report it. Another respondent did not report salary, concerned about keeping the information private. Because so few directors responded to the salary question, the conclusions drawn from this analysis are tentative.

Directors reported salaries from under $21,000 to over $76,000; however, the numbers on the high and low ends were small. A majority (56%, n=159) reported making between $34,000 and $55,000 (see Table 12).

                                                                                                              Table 12: Writing Center Director Salary

Salary Range

% of Total Respondents to Question

n=159

 

 

< $21,000

4%

$21,000 - $34,000

15%

$34,000 - $45,000

30%

$45,000 - $55,000

26%

$55,000 - $76,000

20%

> $76,000

4%


            The salary data does not provide a complete picture of director earnings, though. Some writing center directors may earn extra money as instructors. Roughly 70% of the respondents to a question about additional payment for instruction (n= 155) reported that their salaries did not include income from adjunct or part-time instruction.

In our analysis of the salary data, we looked for correlations between salary and other factors: duration/ type of appointment, type of university, director gender, director experience in the position, director degree, and director employment category. When analyzing the salary data according to other variables, the size of the sample further decreased, as not all respondents to the salary question answered all other questions. In addition, due to the many categorical variables involved in directors’ pay, and the difficulty of analyzing these types of data, we analyzed variables individually, without controlling for other variables.[10]

Variables that do not seem to influence director salary include duration/type of appointment, type of university (private or public), and gender. To the data on type of director appointment (10-, 11-, or 12-month or academic year), we applied a Kruskal-Wallis test, which analyzes data with more than two groups. This test revealed no statistical significance (p=0.88), suggesting no correlation between salary and duration of appointment. We ran a Wilcoxon rank sum test (which requires two groups only) on  directors’ salaries at private and public schools, and the results suggested that directors’ pay does not seem to vary between these two types of institutions ( p= 0.7).

Further analysis suggests that salary does not vary according to gender (See Table 13). The Wilcoxon rank sum test validated this conclusion, showing no statistical significance in the differences in salary across gender (p= 0.48). This suggests that male and female writing center directors receive equitable salaries; however, this conclusion is only preliminary. For one, an overall lack of responses to the question about salary may have skewed the results. More specifically, female directors outnumbered male directors by a large margin: 120 female directors responded to this question, compared to only 39 male directors. Proportionally, however, more of the men who participated in the survey responded to this question (82% of all the men who took the survey answered the question about salary compared to 63% of all the women who took the survey). It is impossible to determine if our sample provides a fair representative of the salaries of male and female directors.

                                                                                                              Table 13: Salary Classifications for Male and Female Directors

 

Female

Male

Total

Director Salary

Number of

Respondents

% of Female Respondents

Number of Respondents

% of Male Respondents

Total

Respondents

% of Total Respondents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

< $21,000

5

4%

2

5%

7

4%

$21,000 to $34,000

19

16%

4

10%

23

14%

$34,000 to $45,000

36

30%

12

31%

48

30%

$45,000 to $55,000

32

27%

10

26%

42

26%

$55,000 to $76,000

24

20%

8

21%

32

20%

> $76,000

4

3%

3

8%

7

4%

Total

120

100%

39

100%

159

100%


            Variables that seem to affect director salary include director experience in the position and director degree. For the data on years of experience in the position, we calculated the Spearman rank correlation coefficient. The correlation between salary and experience was statistically significant (p=.0002), which suggests that number of years of experience correlates with higher pay. In our analysis of director degree and salary, we excluded from our sample the 4 BA s and 3 specialty degrees, leaving only the MAs and PhDs. We applied the Wilcoxon rank test, which calculated a significant difference (p < .0001). These results suggest what many assume: directors with PhDs on average have higher salaries than directors with MAs.

            As expected, director employment category (or rank) also seems to correlate with change in salary. In our analysis of these data, we excluded the five part-time directors and one graduate teaching assistant director. We applied the Kruskal-Wallis test to the four remaining groups: non-faculty, non-tenured, tenure-track faculty, and tenured faculty. The test revealed statistically significant (p=.0001) differences in salary by director category when ranked in this order (moving from lowest salary to highest salary): non-faculty, non-tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and tenured faculty. Thus, non-faculty status corresponds to the lowest salaries among the four groups and tenured faculty status corresponds to highest salaries.


Assistant/Associate Director

The numbers for responses to questions about assistant and associate directors were very low. At most, these questions had 60 responses, so our conclusions about assistant/associate directors are only preliminary. The low response rate has a few possible explanations. Perhaps the respondents who left the questions blank had no assistant or associate director. Or, they had positions that did not quite fit the survey’s category of assistant/associate director. The low response rate may confirm what Healy describes as the “complexity…of how writing center people refer to themselves” (29). In his article, Healy offers a list of “official titles” for writing center workers, including Writing Center Manager, Writing Center Facilitator, and Writing Coordinator (29), all of which may require duties similar to those of a director or of an assistant or associate director. This complexity may have affected the rate of response to the WCRP survey’s question. One comment in particular hinted at the many writing center positions that did not quite fit the survey’s categories yet still deserve our attention: “We don't have an associate/assistant Director. The position title is Peer Tutor Coordinator.”

Our limited data suggest that assistant/associate directors have a high turn-over rate. Of those responding, the majority had assistant/associate directors with two or fewer years of experience. According to survey responses, most assistant/associate directors’ highest degree is an MA (65%, n=55). Many have only a BA (22%), and a few have a PhD (13%).

The high turnover rate may be partially explainable by the 20% (n=55) of respondents who reported that their assistant or associate director’s employment category is graduate student or assistant. Overall, the responses indicate that a very few of the 55 assistant or associate directors whose employment categories were reported in this survey are tenured or tenure-line faculty: 9%. See Table 14 for other reported categories.


Table 14: Associate/Assistant Director Employment Categories n=55

Employment Category

Number of Respondents

% of Total Respondents

 

 

 

Non-faculty professional staff

26

47%

Graduate student/ assistant

11

20%

Non-tenurable, full-time faculty

10

18%

Part-time faculty

3

5%

Tenure-track faculty

2

4%

Tenured faculty

3

5%



Data suggest that assistant directors vary in their appointments and salaries. To our question about their contract appointment, 40% reported a 10-month appointment, 33% a 12-month appointment, 24% an academic year appointment, and 4% an 11-month appointment (n=55). According to our data (n= 52), assistant/associate directors generally earn lower salaries than directors, with the majority (56%) earning between $21,000 and $45,000. Some earn very low salaries, with 23% earning less than $21,000. Low salaries may be a result of assistant/associate directors who have part-time and GTA status. However 70% (n=54) said that this salary did not include income from adjunct or part-time instruction; therefore, our data may not reflect the assistant/associate directors’ total earnings.

 

Conclusion

 

The lack of a stable picture of “the writing center” supports the discussions occurring on the WCenter listserv, in the Writing Center Journal, and at conferences about the fluid nature of writing centers. While this fluid nature allows individual writing centers to change and grow to meet the needs of their particular institutions, it can also possibly restrict that growth by limiting their institutional cache. This divided position may be unavoidable, and having a typical vision of a writing center may be counterproductive, but the position merits further attention and discussion.

There are some areas of study that may be better left outside of the WCRP survey’s scope. The minimal data we obtained on secondary institutions, OWLs, and ESL students could be improved in future surveys through more and improved questions; however, lengthening the survey may only decrease our response rate since some respondents already claimed that the survey was too long. Therefore, we hope that others will take up the much-needed research to fill in the gaps by creating surveys that focus specifically on these areas.

Based on the WCRP's contact list, we know that many writing centers exist at the secondary level. However, only seven responded to the latest survey. Whether this lack of response comes from secondary institutions not knowing about the survey or from our survey not asking questions appropriate of secondary schools, we do not know. If the latter is the case, we hope that our survey could be used as the basis for a refined survey that meets the needs of these writing centers.

In its three incarnations, the WCRP survey has improved and will continue to improve with the support of writing center directors responding to the survey and helping us to refine our instrument. Despite the limitations of the survey and of the resulting data in helping to create a fixed picture of writing centers across the country, the WCRP survey still holds great value in supplying descriptive data that writing centers can use to meet local needs. Several writing center directors commented after taking the survey that they now knew what information they should record in the future. Having the information necessary to complete the survey requires careful record-keeping, which helps directors meet local needs through being able to account for the operations of their centers. We encourage directors to participate in future WCRP surveys, to help us establish vital benchmark data in this ongoing project.

 

 


 

1. The list of over 1,000 writing centers has been compiled over several years. We combined mailing lists from the Writing Lab Newsletter and the Writing Center Journal with membership lists from the IWCA and all the regional associations that would share their lists. We also added names at national and regional conferences, and our program assistant has checked our list electronically and added names when appropriate.

2. In order to analyze the data with normal-theory methods, the data was logarithmically transformed to achieve normal, bell-curve shaped distribution.

3. See a recent Wcenter listserv thread on shorter sessions for a current view of the forces influencing session length. The thread begins with: Alford, Elisabeth. “Changing to Shorter Sessions.” Online posting. 3 May 2005. Wcenter Listserv Archives. 12 May 2005. <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

4. 
In the same discussion thread (RE: Questions about Which Students Use your Services), Wcenter listserv participants also argued for using service usage figures to request additional funding.

5. 
At institutions that have separate writing centers for graduate and undergraduate students, for instance, the director of the graduate writing center would have reported that her writing center serves only graduate students. Undergraduates may receive assistance in a separate facility, and that information would have been reported by its director.

6.  We understand that labels such as English-as-a-second-language (ESL) and non-native users of English do not always correctly describe the status or linguistic competence of students, nor does a homogenous group of students identified as such exist; we, however, use these terms interchangeably here only to refer to those student writers for whom English is not their first language.

7. 
For the first time since 1930, immigrants comprise 10% of the US population, of which Latin America has the largest share (51%), and Asia accounts for 26% (US Census Bureau, 2002). 

8. Although most respondents reported that they refer to those who work in writing centers as "tutors," we have chosen to refer to them as "consultants" because we believe the term better reflects the work performed at most writing centers.  The term "tutor" often describes a person who provides knowledge to another person who lacks it, while "consultant" often describes a person who collaborates, offering additional knowldedge and suggestions based on expertise and on close study of the particular situation. 

9.  The respondents who chose “specialized degree” did not always specify if their degrees were graduate degrees. If some were, the percentage of graduate degrees may be slightly higher than reported here.

10. Due to the categorical nature of the data, non-normal tests such as Wilcoxon rank sum, Spearman rank correlations, and Kruskal Wallis tests were performed on the data.


Works Cited

Alford, Elisabeth. “Changing to Shorter Sessions.” Online posting. 3 May 2005. Wcenter Listserv Archives. 12 May 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

Bagley, Kathleen. “Free-Standing WCs?” Online posting. 10 Mar. 2005. Wcenter Listserv Archives. 15 Mar. 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

Black, James. “RE: Questions about Which Students Use your Services.” Online posting. 7 Apr. 2005. Wcenter. 15 June 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

Boquet, Elizabeth. “Re: WC Director position [long].” Online posting. 11 May 2005. Wcenter. 13 May 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

Coulter, Alan. “RE: Questions about Which Students Use your Services.” Online posting. 7 Apr. 2005. Wcenter. 15 June 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

Ede, Lisa. “Free-Standing WCs?” Online posting. 10 Mar. 2005. Wcenter Listserv Archives. 15 Mar. 2005 <http://lyris.acs.ttu.edu/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?enter=wcenter&text_mode=O&lang=english>.

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