Social Justice + Equity Statement
Our statement on Equity and Social Justice in the Writing Center is divided into two parts: beliefs and values. We see our beliefs as the philosophical underpinnings of our actions, which are embodied in our values. As tutors, we want to work together with our peers, our teachers, our administrators, and our community to reduce systemic inequities within public education.
As an organization, we have four foundational beliefs that form the basis of our continuing work of building an inclusive, identity affirming, justice seeking, equity driven program:
The tutors of the Skyline Writing Center are committed to working against the pervasive ideology of deficit thinking in schools that has cast students as needing to be “fixed” or “remediated” because their everyday literacy, language, and social practices have been deemed incongruent with institutional standards. We believe that institutional standards are systemically aligned with the voices and values of dominant people, which forces marginalized students to conform to their social, linguistic, and literacy practices or risk academic failure, which can impact college admissions and scholarship offers, employment and program opportunities, and, perhaps most of all, a student’s sense of self-efficacy and agency. The systemic privileging of dominant discursive practices mirrors and edifies existing power imbalances, sending a clear signal about the kinds of critical knowledge and social capital that are and are not valued in a given space. Additionally, the tacit message here is that the “problem” or “deficit” resides within the student, but the solution—the “fix”—lies outside of the student, further limiting agency and self-efficacy by fostering tendencies related to fixed mindset where students write to please the grader rather than writing to learn.
As tutors, we believe that deficit thinking—the idea that students need to “fixed” or “saved”—is problematically colonial because it invalidates whole identities and their social and cultural capital from finding a place in the institution. As tutors, we believe it is vital that we work against deficit thinking where we see it by offering students a critical and physical space to find and use their existing cultural and social capital—their “funds of knowledge”—as a legitimate, valued basis for completing school assignments.
As tutors, we must actively work to confront any personal biases and systemic discrimination that prevents any Skyline student from using their own strengths and abilities to succeed, even if they are outside the dominant culture’s funds of knowledge. Indeed, we cannot avoid discussing issues of social injustice or social inequity because silence leads to inaction and the continuation of the current system. No person, race, or culture needs to be “fixed,” but their funds of knowledge—their social and cultural capital—must be multiplied, celebrated, and valued within the Writing Center and in our school in order to encourage empowerment through what Nancy Grimm calls a “pedagogy of hope.”
We believe that writing centers do more than simply help students with writing, as writing is not an ideologically neutral act, especially as students must often balance the demands of school and teachers with their own social, political, and cultural realities. The Writing Center can be the site where important peer-to-peer conversations about the systemic tensions in the education system and their possible solutions can take place.
We know that our work will be ongoing, but we are committed to standing with our community for social justice and equity. Writing centers can be–and must be–a space where Black lives matter.
- Black lives matter.
- We will avoid establishing power hierarchies that further notions of deficit thinking in the Writing Center by sharing vulnerability with our classmates and valuing their language and knowledge. This includes dismantling adult supremacy at Skyline and beyond.
- We will avoid language that cause microaggressions in order to foster equity and inclusion in sessions, in training, and in the Writing Center.
- We will use a student’s chosen first name and pronouns at all times in sessions, in training, and in the Writing Center.
- We will also use language that fosters growth mindset and “pedagogy of hope” for all students allowing them to continue strength-based improvement as part of our commitment to reducing systemic disproportionality. We believe that we all can learn and achieve.
- We will run sessions that ask our classmates growth-minded questions that help them to unlock, unpack, and use their strengths in writing.
- We will not interfere with a classmate’s right to express themselves in the ways that best reflect their social, cultural, and political realities.
- We will continue to discuss issues and artifacts of social injustice and inequity to ensure that we are aware of systemic and personal biases, learning additional strategies to support students impacted by discrimination, and focusing on how we can ensure that our Writing Center practices support all of our classmates.
- We will continue to publish, promote, and amplify student voices in an effort to empower them to use their words, art, photography, and multimedia skills to confront issues of social inequity and injustice in our community.
- We will engage with community partners to support literacy in our area to help reduce inequities and normalize high achievement in literacy and writing for every student.
Access + Accessibility Statement
The Skyline Writing Center works to support and amplify student voice through writing because we value each individual’s unique funds of knowledge. As our work against deficit perspectives continues, we reaffirm that we are not here to “fix” any student. We are dedicated to meeting the needs of students who face barriers to success in the dominant school culture, such as those with disabilities or those facing linguistic discrimination, in a responsive, asset-based way.
In accordance with the United Nations and World Health Assembly, we define disability as an individual’s lack of ability to perform a task due to an impairment. The health of any human can be compromised, and therefore, any human can experience a type of disability at any time in their lives. However, these barriers are not limited to health, as many students continue to face obstacles to full inclusion at school because of their English language proficiency.
- As a writing center, we are always looking for ways to promote accessibility throughout our program and create more availability for accessibility in our spaces.
- We are dedicated to making our spaces, both physical and virtual, as well as the communication and promotion of our services, projects, and events, comfortable, thorough, and accessible for all students.
- We will continue to train tutors on access, accessibility, (dis)ability, and linguistic discrimination in the Writing Center, including situating our approaches in a marginal design model that centers that needs of the most marginalized writing center users first.
- We seek to be responsive to each writer, and we want each writer to feel comfortable being their fullest selves in the Writing Center.
- We know that identities are intersectional, so our efforts toward a more accessible, responsive Writing Center is intertwined with our anti-racist, anti-bias work.
- We know the power of words to create safe, comfortable, and hospitable environments or to reinforce power, privilege, hierarchy, ableism, and exclusion, and we will engage in training, reflection, and practice around inclusive language use to be sure each student feels welcome in our virtual or physical Writing Center.
- If we cannot provide writers with the resources they need, we are committed to helping connect them to resources that meet their needs
Finally, we understand that we do not understand, and through that, we are always working towards a better understanding of disability, linguistic injustice, and other barriers to access, and how we can work to overcome those barriers.
If you notice any issues with our accessibility statement or the accessibility of our writing center in general, fill our our anonymous feedback form here.