Undergirding Writing Centers' Responses to the Neoliberal Academy
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Writing centers are at once a part of and a response to the neoliberal academy, a phenomenon that Ryan King-White describes as a place where, “students have come to be regarded as customers, academic researchers are thought of as entrepreneurs competing for external grant funding, and the university itself more closely resembles a business model than an institute of higher learning” (223). Using that as a starting point, this essay functions part historiography, part diagnosis, and part synthesis, with three main goals: (1) redefine “neoliberalism” as a framework of critique for contemporary higher education within the United States, (2) diagnose writing centers situatedness within the neoliberal academy, and finally, (3) identify how emergent social justice scholarship—here defined as those theories accounting for access and ability, anti-racism, braver space, mindfulness, and labor—within Writing Center Studies are particularly suited as responses to neoliberalism. By expanding disciplinary praxes to examine how writing centers function within the neoliberal academy to incorporate a broader range of identities, theories, and people, writing centers can be better equipped to identify the reifying practices of our centers and develop ways to resist the harmful effects of neoliberalism that evoke these responses.