Last fall I found myself not only our school’s Writing Center Director but also its Writing Program Administrator. At the same time, a reminder of my wastrel youth appeared: the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the Clash’s London Calling.

The two events are connected. On the one hand, it is delightful to hear people again discuss the anthems of the punk-rock era. More than at any time since the 1970s, we need a little more defiance against authority, including the transformation of everything into a saleable commodity. On the other hand, the very way in which London Calling appeared, slickly packaged at a premium price, reinforces my creeping suspicion that everything, from punk rock to writing centers, is being assimilated by corporate values.

Writing centers have always placed writers’ needs ahead of those of our universities. Like punks, we provide alternatives to an often alienating system of power. Now that I have bowdlerized North’s famous dictum, why stop there? What do we do, as colleges and universities increasingly become mere extensions of the corporate world, instead of alternatives to it? A number of scholars are charting the ways in which the structures and governance of higher education, even the software we use to teach, ever more closely resemble those in business. That metamorphosis may help cashstrapped institutions generate revenue, but the opportunity costs can include the independence and long-standing mission of writing centers.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2005 The Writing Lab Newsletter. This article first appeared in The Writing Lab Newsletter 30:2 (2005), 1-5.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.