Commitment to Anti-Racist, Inclusive Writing Support

The following position statements were developed in collaboration with our writing consultants and writing fellows and are reviewed annually. Writing consultants and writing fellows are expected to adhere to these positions as conditions of their employment.

Anti-Racist Praxis

As professionals and student employees dedicated to assisting writers, we recognize that the proliferation of the English language, both written and spoken, has long been used as a tool of colonialism and white supremacy. As a diverse group, in addition to educating ourselves about this history, many of us have personally experienced and been shaped by linguistic racism ourselves.

In an effort to counter this systemic injustice, we as writing assistants commit ourselves to the following:

  • We prioritize understanding how white supremacy has influenced academia generally and academic writing specifically in our WF and GWC training.
  • We respect every writer’s right to their own language (see Students’ Right to Their Own Language), and we celebrate and advocate for linguistic diversity. We understand so-called “Standard English” as a myth and refuse to conceptualize it as apolitical. We will not serve as gatekeepers of the English language.
  • When we encounter oppressive language or rhetoric, we will address it thoroughly with the writer, discussing any conscious or unconscious bias underlying the language
  • We will regularly reflect on our own writing experiences and identities as writers, --to confront our own biases and assumptions related to our writing and our work as writing assistants.

Students' Right to Their Own Languages

For too long, American schools have forced students to conform to a style of speaking and writing that adheres to white, middle/upper-class expectations. Many students have learned to code-switch, using different language at home than at school. This practice has endangered some languages altogether and has resulted in students losing both language skills and confidence in their own expression. 

While we emphasize the importance of considering one’s genre, audience, and rhetorical situation in writing, we simultaneously support each student’s right to use their own language. We support the practice of code-meshing, in which writers combine traditional academic language with dialects of English, non-English languages, written “accents,” and other variations. Code-meshing in scholarly writing has existed since at least the 1970s, and we crave further expansion of academic language. We assist writers in making their own rhetorical choices, even if those may not adhere to traditional expectations. More broadly, we honor the writer’s agency in writing, even as we acknowledge the complex power structures that influence that writing. Our goal is to help students revise thoughtfully, through informed choices about their writing, rather than to enforce any one mode of communication.

Inclusive Language

As writers, we are aware of the power of language to oppress, and we strive to make our own language use as inclusive as possible. We recognize the important work of feminist, LGBTQIA, anti-racist, and disability activists in changing language norms and raising awareness of sexist, gender-exclusive, racist, ableist, xenophobic, transphobic, and other oppressive language. We defer to each individual’s pronoun choice. We encourage use of singular they, in opposition to some style guides, because people are more important than grammar -- and because the malleability of language has been and should be a form of resistance to oppression.

Through attempts to understand and educate, not shame, we as writing assistants commit to addressing oppressive language in student writing and helping writers to become aware of both unconscious and conscious bias in academic research and writing. We specifically commit to addressing oppressive language that does not directly affect us or our identities, in an attempt to lessen the burden for our colleagues who are directly affected, and we reserve the right to end conversations that seek to harm us deliberately. We aim to increase empathy and awareness as well as reduce the prevalence of oppressive language.