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Last week, I was talking with colleagues about a future super-secret project (stay tuned) and we got to wondering how many two-year college writing center folks were on WCENTER. WCENTER is the preeminent listserv for writing center folks. I've been a member since 1992, but I don't recall anyone trying to figure out who (demographically) was on the list. Rather than burdening list members with a huge demographic survey, however, I just decided to stick with the original question: what types of institutions are WCENTER users coming from. I only left it up for a few days, so I'm not saying that this survey has captured all potential WCENTER readers/respondents, by the way. My Survey Monkey professional account was expiring, however, and I wanted to download the data. (so much for self-funded research, eh?)

In any case, here we go:

I did suspect that four year plus universities and colleges would dominate the users of WCENTER, given the list's history and the development of the writing center movement.  It is what it is. I think the number of two-year (associates) schools is pretty decent and no doubt is more now than it ever has been, but I don't have any direct evidence of any trends since this, as I said, is the first institutional demographic survey I am familiar with for WCENTER. It would seem that we in the two-year community might want to do some outreach to our colleagues to inform them about the list, however, given that two-year colleges represent a more significant portion of higher education these days.
I am a little disturbed by the lack of Secondary/Elementary school members of the list and that may reflect a divide in our community that is difficult to bridge. Secondary educators do have their own list, but it isn't nearly as active as WCENTER. Secondary writing center directors, of course, are extremely busy folks with much heavier teaching and directing roles. Again, it is what it is.

Since I am pretty heavily invested in the International Writing Centers Association, and the super-secret project I mentioned above (stay tuned) will be proposed to IWCA, I also wanted to see how many WCENTER members claimed membership in IWCA:

There are a couple of things that interest me about this chart. First, it is interesting that nearly 8% are uncertain of their status as members of IWCA. This, I think, goes hand-in-hand with the fact that I think the 75% membership claim is inflated. While IWCA does have over 700 members, I know from my experience in IWCA leadership that many people think they have a membership who don't. Many seem to think that subscribing to Writing Lab Newsletter makes them a member. I could, of course, be completely wrong in my bias, and perhaps the survey numbers are correct. There is really no way to verify that at this point.


  1. I'm afraid your project isn't super secret, Clint. Once you admit it exists, you get downgraded to just "secret".

    Seriously, this is very interesting. Thanks for making this information!

  2. Clint,

    Thanks for posting this. I am sorry I didn't think to forward your announcement of this survey to the secondary listserv. Also, do we have an IWCA email list so that we could also check the stats for actual members?
    I think you are right on with your belief that people think they belong to IWCA if they get WLN or belong to a regional and think they belong to IWCA.

  3. Thanks Pam. Actually the survey was supposed to be just about wcenter so that is ok. I agree it would be interesting to correlate, but that isn't possible.

  4. Clint, Thanks so much for doing the survey and sharing your reflections. The low percentage of responses from secondary members is not unexpected. Even if they are subscribed to the Listserv, many may only be able to read it sporadically. They are much more likely to respond on the SSWC-L since, as you note, it isn't as active & they know when something does come in that it is directly related to them. The information that you are gathering is important. Thanks.

  5. In case you didn't recognize my stage name above, the "Jeanette L" was me....:-)
    Jenny Jordan

  6. Mary Arnold SchwartzFebruary 26, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    I'm not surprised about the numbers of Associate granting colleges represented on WCenter after cursorily investigating the Indiana system. Even though our state has forced the offerings of "remedial classes" to the community college system, it provides no apparent mandate or funding academic support beyond the limited support that can be provided through TRIO grants or short term site-initiated endeavors. The idea that academic support (including writing centers) provides much more than remediation seems beyond comprehension to the few folks I've been able to talk with. Would that we could entice more from Indiana community colleges even to lurk on WCenter!

  7. Since these studies are usually only open a week (?) I also wonder about the results-- only people who can go through all of their listserve e-mail within a week end up included. Perhaps people at certain types of institutions or in certain position designations are more likely to keep up with their e-mail that quickly...

  8. The WCENTER study was open a week. I only left the WCENTER one up a week because I was running out of time on my Survey Monkey account.

    The other survey was open for 3 weeks.

    Now with that, I do think that any solely online survey is highly suspect. We rely on them so much these days, but I think they miss important segments of any group.

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for posting your results. I was one of your participants, and, as a writing center manager at a community college, I was surprised to see that as many as 15% of your respondents were as well. As much as I am enriched by the conversations that emerge from WCENTER, I feel that so many issues innate to a community college/open admissions setting are beyond the day-in-the-life experience of staff/faculty/scholars outside of that particular context. (What happens at community college, stays at community college?) Like my students, I am poised (and sometimes not), straddling discourse communities. Still, I am, on a daily basis, in awe of my tutors, both peer and professional, who work so well with such a diverse (in so many ways) student population. Thanks for your work. :)

    Kirsten Patey-Hurd
    Quinsigamond Community College
    Worcester, MA


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