Click on each promise below to see specifically how the UWC is working to build an increasingly inclusive writing community. Here we highlight the work the UWC has done from 2019-2021. To read what we did prior to 2019, please check out our archive. For information on our ongoing professional development and initiatives, check out our blog, Consultant Happenings.


You can also explore further reading on writing-related social justice issues and contribute to our growing body of literature.

Writing centers are places where writers can share their work-in-progress and talk about their writing with careful readers and writers. The University Writing Center operates on the belief that to be successful, a writer must be able to anticipate the effects of their words on readers. Consultants are committed to helping writers at all stages of the writing process, from generating ideas for a paper to developing later drafts. We aim to assist writers with specific assignments while also teaching writing strategies that can be applied to future writing projects. Our services are not remedial; rather, they are additional resources for anyone who wishes to become a better writer. We believe that achieving this goal requires a commitment to an inclusive environment and an orientation to language use that prioritizes justice and equity.

In accordance with the values of ECU, the UWC will not provide assistance on writing projects that appear to incite abusive or violent responses from their audiences, nor will we tolerate inappropriate or disrespectful behavior towards staff or other writers, which is based in whole or in part upon any of the following protected statuses: race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status. Inappropriate and disrespectful behavior includes: harassment, threats, bullying, or intimidation. Directing these actions toward a particular individual or group in a manner which is unwelcome, offensive, and either undermines or detracts from the targeted individual’s or groups’ academic pursuits and participation in the UWC creates a hostile learning environment and will not be tolerated.


Our Commitment

With university values rooted in leadership, service, and respect, the East Carolina University Writing Center (UWC) will model, discuss, and promote social justice for the benefit of the entire campus community. We believe all writers are capable of the highest level of academic performance. However, our staff and student employees recognize that writing is inherently tied to culture and identity and that it is also a tool that can perpetuate systemic discrimination as swiftly as it can participate in the transformation of our world. The UWC believes it is our responsibility to acknowledge the following:

  • Language is fluid and reflects the society and culture in which we live. There is no inherent standard of English.*
  • Societal discrimination is multidimensional and targets individuals based on their identity. In addition, the compounding effect of discrimination toward intersecting identities is often overlooked or misunderstood in our current understanding of social inequity.
  • Writing and higher education can serve as vehicles for intellectual and social mobility. Access and support for these opportunities can counteract the barriers to success (both academic and otherwise) created by discrimination.

* We know that our stakeholders continue to expect us to help student writers learn to perform well for academic audiences. Here, we intentionally align ourselves with an established body of research which tells us that all dialects and languages are equally legitimate. Therefore, we choose a posture of respect for the dialects and languages that students bring with them into the UWC and a commitment to valuing different ways of knowing and being in the academy.



Promise #1: To educate ourselves on social justice issues and partner with student organizations, campus departments, and community partners.

The UWC hosts weekly professional development meetings and readings for all UWC staff during the academic semesters. Our professional development structure includes time for assigned readings, reflections, brainstorming, and discussion of ways we can improve our practices as a writing center.


In Summer 2020, we noticed a gap in our historical understanding of race. We focused our professional development on the history of civil rights and the school to prison pipeline. We engaged the following sources:


  • “How Stonewall Became Famous”
  • “Slavery, Civil Rights, and Abolitionist Perspectives Toward Prison,” from Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis, pgs. 9-21
  • “The History of the History of American Slavery” by Matthew Wills
  • “Processing Our Collective Grief” episode of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast
  • “The School-to-Prison Pipeline, Explained” by Libby Nelson and Dara Lind
  • “Dismantling School to Prison Pipeline” episode of the Race Capitol podcast
  • Ghosts in the School Yard by Eve Ewing
  • “Book of Statuses” episode of Nice White Parents podcast
  • “The Civil Rights Movement in Greenville and Pitt County: Documenting the Fight for School Desegregation in Greenville/Pitt County” by Patrick Cash

The UWC is also committed to sharing what we are learning with campus and community partners and co-hosting social justice events, open forums, and educational opportunities. Our most recent collaborations include:

Hoist: Helping Our Students Thrive: In collaboration with the Dean of Students and Office of Faculty Excellence, we co-organized a mental health brown bag series in Spring 2020 and 2021. The series focused on educating the campus on the mental health concerns facing students and how mental health impacts students.

Community Writing Center: Before moving the Community Writing Center (CWC) online, we operated the CWC in partnership with the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Center. We provided writing workshops and writing consultations for community members.

Other campus partners have included

  • Ledonia Wright Cultural Center
  • Language Academy
  • Graduate School
  • Career Services
  • Innovation Early College High School



Promise 2: To explore the social implications of language.

If language is inherently tied to culture and the society in which we live, then the way we use our spoken and written words also invokes social norms and excludes apparent outliers. Taking a critical stance toward language norms helps us to evaluate our choices and make new, intentional ones when we find things that don’t honor our differences, account for our histories, or inspire better futures. Specifically, the UWC commits to being intentional about the ways that our language choices empower or negate; enable or constrain; embrace or reject the people, ideas, and experiences that enter our space.

The UWC has paid close attention to the social implications of language as it relates to gender with the understanding that the existence and use of pronouns for non-binary people is empowering. Identity cannot be separated from language, making the acceptance of non-binary pronouns absolutely necessary to ensure all have a voice.

When writers schedule an appointment with the UWC, they have the option of specifying their pronouns. This optional, blank space invites writers to bring their social identity to the UWC and to their writing without requiring a response of those who prefer not to answer. Our writing consultants check this information prior to the start of each appointment so as to be both inclusive and professional. Some consultants have gone so far as to write their pronouns on their nameplates/tags inside the UWC. It is important to us that both consultants and writers feel empowered—rather than limited or oppressed—by the implications of language.

The UWC also recognizes the use of “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. While “they” has often occurred as singular and gender-neutral in conversational English, it is now grammatically correct according to the Associated Press Stylebook.

As part of our commitment to racial linguistic diversity, our professional development has focused on the ways we can be more intentional with linguistic justice during writing center sessions. The following scholarship has shaped our understand of linguistic justice.

  • “The Difference Between Being ‘Not Racist’ and Antiracist” Ibram X. Kendi TED Talk
  • “’Nah, We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching” by Vershawn Ashanti Young
  • “Corrective Feedback” by Ben Rafoth
  • “Often Imitated, But Never Duplicated” episode of The Black Language Podcast
  • “Black English Matters” by Chi Luu
  • “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin

In Spring 2021, the UWC consultants wrote a letter to faculty advocating for linguistic justice across writing courses.


Promise 3: To discuss cultural competence and inclusive practices in writing and beyond.

One of the joys of writing center work is our constantly evolving staff. Each semester we bring new consultants onto staff as others graduate or pursue other career options. To help ensure all of our consultants have a baseline understanding of our social justice mission and commitments to inclusive work, we added an anti-racist onboarding module for all new consultants. Our onboarding modules help contextualize our social justice mission and provide consultants with an introduction to the scholarship that has shaped our commitments.


Our full-time staff use our professional development series as a medium for thoughtful discussion of inclusivity in the UWC. In our weekly meetings, employees are encouraged to use their experiences with writers and each other as case studies for handling cultural insensitivity and any other scenarios that may be challenging. Through our staff meetings, we recognized a lapse in expertise for working with multilingual writers. Two consultants engaged in additional professional development with the Director of the Language Academy to strengthen their language learning skills. We are now working to expand that knowledge to the rest of the writing center staff.


Each semester, we identify an inclusive theme to unpack in our professional development. Our topics over the last few semesters have included:


Spring 2021: Multilingual Learners

Fall 2020: Accessibility and Linguistic Diversity

Summer 2020: Race

Spring 2020: Mental Health in Response to COVID-19

Fall 2019: Mental Health


As part of our professional development, we’ve read

  • “On the Edges: Black Maleness, Degrees of Racism, and Community on the Boundaries of the Writing Center” by Jason Esters
  • “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh
  • “Developing a Liberatory Consciousness” by Barbara Love
  • “What Can We Do?” by Allen G. Johnson
  • “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice” NCTE Statement
  • “Theory In/To Practice: Addressing the Everyday Language of Oppression in the Writing Center” by Mandy Surh-Sytsma and Shan-Estelle
  • “Unmaking Gringo Centers” by Romeo Garcia
  • “Radical Writing Center Practices” by Laura Greenfield
  • “Building a House for Linguistic Diversity: Writing Centers, English-Language Teaching and Learning, and Social Justice”by Frankie Condon and Bobbi Olson
  • David Kelly’s keynote speech from the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association’s conference
  • “Disability in the Writing Center: A New Approach (That’s Not So New)” by Kerri Rinaldi
  • The “Universal Design” episode of the NPR podcast (In)Accessible
  • “Access (dis)Abled: Interrogating Standard Design Practices in Higher Education Writing Center Websites” by Stephanie Quinn, Anna Belmonte, Emily Davis, Andrew Gardewine, and Gabrielle Madewell
  • “The Americans with Disabilities Act” episode of The Accessible Stall podcast
  • “Opening Closed Doors: A Rationale for Creating a Safe Space for Tutors Struggling with Mental Health Concerns or Illnesses” by Hillary Degner, Kylie Wojciechowski, and Christopher Giroux
  • “Mental Health Awareness in the Writing Center” by Sarah Emerson
  • “Understanding Grief in the Age of the Covid-19 Pandemic” by Kendra Cherry
  • “The Complexity of Identity: ‘Who Am I?'” by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • “Navigating Disability Disclosure in the Writing Center: The Other Side of the Table” by Kerri Rinaldi


Promise 4:To empower everyone as writers with distinct voices and social identities.

The UWC is not an editing service staffed with all-knowing staff; we are partners in the writing process, and student writers maintain the authority to draft and revise their own writing according to their individual writing styles. Through our professional development series, we prepare our student writing consultants not to pull out the red pen and start marking, but to ask good questions that allow the writer to develop problem-solving skills.


In a recent professional development activity, consultants reflected on how white middle class English is the language of power. To dismantle systems of power, writers first need to know how to operate within the system. There are various ways for individuals to communicate and those options should be celebrated and not situated within a hierarchy.


  • “CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing Multilingual Writers”
  • “Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective” by Marmon Silko
  • “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” by Audre Lorde

The concepts we unpack and learn through professional development are implemented into writing consultations, dissertation bootcamps, international student writing workshops and other writing center work.



Promise #5: To create a space that encourages self-expression and critical thinking.

The University Writing Center is designed to be a flexible, conversational space. Consultants and writers are even encouraged to change the physical space to encourage innovation, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. There is no set formula as to how we work with a visitor or engage in the writing process.

We also create spaces and opportunities that encourage writers to engage with the world around them.

Since Spring 2020, we’ve focused primarily on how to cultivate conversational spaces online.



Promise #6: To challenge writers to substantiate their beliefs with evidence.

The UWC understands the importance of citing credible sources when formulating opinions, particularly in writing. Consultants are prepared to help students evaluate both academic and popular sources to help writers use them effectively. We understand that different disciplines and communities value different kinds of evidence. We encourage writers to evaluate sources carefully, read and interpret them critically, and make choices that will appeal persuasively and ethically to their audiences.

Below are links to our current resources on effectively integrating research into a piece of writing. While these resources are available to anyone, our writing consultants are also encouraged to use these and other sources in their appointments and workshops.

Additional documents, videos, and presentations can be found here.


Promise 7:To adapt to the needs of writers during a session.

We recognize that each writer visits the UWC with a unique background, certain strengths, and particular areas of concern. No two consultations will be the same. To ensure that appointments are as tailored and helpful as possible, the UWC asks a number of questions related to the writer’s assignment and reason for seeking help, such as:

  • Course title and instructor
  • Type of assignment and due date
  • Describe your assignment.
  • What are your goals for this session?
  • What are you most concerned about with your writing?
  • If formatting is one of your concerns, please identify which style you are using.
  • Where are you in the writing process?

These appointments are available in-person on ECU’s main and health science campuses and via synchronous and asynchronous online time slots.

Our student writing consultants follow several best practices related to appointments, including but not limited to:

  • Reviewing the writing appointment form for assignment type, concerns, and pronouns prior to the appointment start time
  • Building rapport with the writer and generally creating a welcoming environment
  • Giving the writer the authority to lead the session: having them read their own paper aloud, taking their own notes on topics discussed, and answering exploratory questions posed by our consultants
  • Approaching the session in a way that is in line with prior professional development and appropriate to the writer in question
  • Referring writers to helpful online resources created by the UWC and other writing authorities
  • Collaborating with other consultants when uncertain of how to address a topic
  • Encouraging the writer to submit anonymous feedback about the appointment through our brief online survey


Promise #8: To respect different beliefs and backgrounds.

The University Writing Center upholds the values stated in the ECU Creed and enforces the ECU Student Code of Conduct. As a center and a university, we are “dedicated to providing a safe and vibrant learning and working environment for all” (ECU Student Code of Conduct). We create a welcoming space in the UWC for writers to collaborate and seek assistance with the writing process, and in return, we ensure that all visitors to the UWC are respectful of student employees and full-time staff.

We acknowledge that consultants and writers won’t always agree about the ideas being expressed in the writing that they work on together. We expect to encounter differences in opinion, belief system, and experience during consultations and we commit to being prepared to use conflicting perspectives to make writing stronger. Conflicting perspectives offer opportunities to talk about audience, sources, credibility, and evidence in ways that are productive for the writer’s revision efforts.

Even as we commit to valuing a range of opinions and perspectives, we reserve the right to reject expressions of hatred, otherness, or inhumanity. Even when these expressions are framed as opinions, they reflect ideologies that create unsafe space or provoke violent uptake and they won’t be weighed equally with other “beliefs”.

To that end, we have a zero tolerance policy for harassment, threats, bullying, or intimidation (ECU Student Code of Conduct, section 2.4). Any such behavior will be reported to UWC administrators and addressed immediately for disciplinary action.

As stated in the ECU Creed, University students and officials will “carry out personal and academic integrity, respect and appreciate the diversity of our people, ideas, and opinions, be thoughtful and responsible in [our] actions and words, and engage in purposeful citizenship by serving as a positive role model.” The UWC stands in full support of this messaging and will continually explore ways to promote civil discourse and the shaping of a stronger campus community.


Literature Cited & Further Readings

Click here for literature cited in the Social Justice statement and information on further readings.