Highlights from the Sweetland Anti-Racist Task Force

Like other Sweetland committees, the Sweetland Anti-Racist Task Force continued to meet online in 2021. Our primary focus was to finalize revisions to our student-facing webpages and appointment email language to make them more consistent, transparent, and inclusive. Many of these changes were at the level of individual words or phrases – changing imperatives to requests or adding language explaining the reason behind a policy. One more thoroughgoing policy change involved our decision to no longer require documentation from Services for Students with Disabilities for students to inform us of their access needs, knowing the financial and emotional barriers to this process for many students. Our new language reads:

If you are disabled or differently abled, please let us know what you may need to have an effective Writing Workshop consultation. It would help us greatly if you give us advance notice by emailing sweetlandww@umich.edu about any steps we could take to make this consultation fully accessible for you.

Working in collaborative Google Docs to revise this language was an effective process online, and our Zoom meetings were often highly text focused. The more social aspects of our meetings, when we discussed a reading, for example, were also augmented by our ability easily to share resource links in the chat or offer ideas adjacent to the main discussion taking place. While we miss the lunches we could have together in person, we have repurposed our nominal funding to buy books, instead. We’re currently reading Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Continuing this remote work together, five of us will attend the ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity) Online Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism Workshop over six afternoons in May, and we look forward to sharing our learning with Sweetland faculty and staff next fall – perhaps in person!

Naomi Silver
Lecturer, Sweetland Center for Writing

Resilient Teaching, Creative Adaptations: Sweetland Faculty and Students Learn and Write Together in Remote Environments

T Hetzel’s Minor in Writing Capstone Class

Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the growing COVID-19 pandemic caused schools and colleges to close, faculty and students around the country entered into “emergency remote teaching” mode as they quickly shifted their in-person, often hands-on, pedagogical strategies to a distance-learning format. Many faculty had never taught in online settings before, and we all scrambled to get up to speed on the affordances of Zoom for online class meetings, of video tools like Kaltura for recording video lessons, and the possibilities of social annotation tools like Perusall and Hypothes.is for fostering robust remote discussions of readings. Despite the stress and the real hardships faced by many students and faculty as they transitioned to this “new normal,” silver linings were also discovered as GSIs and faculty created new communities of online practice to share what they were learning about remote teaching and to support each other in making the transition to “resilient” online teaching

Sweetland faculty and student staff made this transition in a variety of ways, and we have gathered here some of their reflections. Shelley Manis and Shuwen Li discuss creative adaptations they made in their teaching plans and student responses to them; Louis Cicciarelli shares the experience of moving the spring Dissertation Writing Institute online; Larissa Sano and Ginger Shultz highlight the innovations made by Sweetland MWrite undergraduate Writing Fellows in their support of students in STEM classes; undergraduate Peer Writing Consultants Jordyn Houle and Julia Van Goor reflect on moving the Sweetland Peer Writing Center online; and April Conway offers appreciations for her students’ resilience and energy in meeting the challenges of this new learning environment.

Naomi Silver
Associate Director, Sweetland Center for Writing