Resistance to WAC

Following a period of expansion and enthusiasm, WAC proponents came to recognize that many faculty members outside the field of writing studies were reluctant to embrace WAC. While early work had focused on professional development aimed at faculty members who shared an understanding of the important role writing could play in student learning and success, work in the second and third decades of WAC turned increasingly toward how best to work with those who were reluctant to use writing in their courses. Resistance to WAC took various forms, including concerns about the lack of expertise required to teach writing, lack of time to put in the work to do WAC well, inflexible curricula (related to presentation-based pedagogies), and mismatches with institutional rewards structures (Couch, 1989; Kaufer & Young, 1993; McLeod, 1989; Soven, 2000; Swanson-Owens, 1986; R. Young, 1991).

Video: Mike Palmquist discusses the rise of resistance to WAC efforts in the late 1980s. View the video at

In response, WAC proponents began to explore new models. In many cases, such as the bottom-up, writing-center-based model developed by Tori Haring-Smith (1987),2 these new models appeared to be based more on local circumstances than on a concerted effort to develop an alternative model. In others, such as the speaking and listening across the curriculum approach advocated by Roberts (1983), these models were launched from a desire to expand the scope of WAC. In still others, such as the integrated approach developed in the early 1990s at Colorado State University (Palmquist et al., 1995), the goal was to address local forms of resistance, in their case, resistance linked to a rewards structure that privileged scholarship and funded research over teaching. "What would it mean to look at writing-across-the-curriculum in a different way?," asked Palmquist and his colleagues, noting that they had "wrestled with our discovery that WAC as it is typically conceptualized—what we've come to think of as 'WAC Orthodoxy'—does not work on our campus" (Palmquist, 2000, p. 373).

Video: Mike Palmquist discusses one new model for WAC that began at Colorado State University in the early 1990s. View the video at

WAC has continued to diversify its approaches, with notable successes such as the Writing Enriched Curriculum developed by Pamela Flash and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota (, the communication across the curriculum approach that is perhaps best exemplified by Chris Anson and his colleagues at North Carolina State University (, and the electronic communication across the curriculum approach that was highlighted by Donna Reiss, Dickie Selfe, and Art Young in their 1998 edited collection.


2. Harriet Sheridan was the Dean of the College at Brown at this time and gave tremendous support to Tori Haring-Smith.