What the executive selection system has created is a national SLAC presidential network of climbers, carpetbaggers, careerists--and liars.
The net effect of all these macro-explanations is to conclude that the administrative overthrow of the erstwhile SLAC model was inevitable, and all we can do now is shrug our shoulders, sit through PowerPoint meetings with small breakout sessions, learn to speak the prevailing jargon, and watch reruns of The Office for off-hour comic relief.
What was once the source of a SLAC's distinctiveness--unique teachers, dedicated to the particular college at hand--now falls sway to the homogenizing influence of a nationalized round-robin network of resume-padding, best-practices-practicing administration-administering administrators.
Historically, SLAC alumni have donated to their small colleges because they genuinely believed in the small-college, residential, face-to-face, liberal arts form of education.
While some research institutions are more likely to have dedicated writing positions and/or graduate students, SLACs instead typically rely on a combination of non-composition tenure-line faculty, adjuncts, and other non-tenure-line faculty labor (such as lecturers).
These structural obstacles to creating writing requirements at SLACs actually underscore the importance of writing to the SLAC educational mission: despite the challenges, 43 of the 55 respondents (approximately 78 percent) reported that their colleges do indeed have a writing requirement in some form.
(Of the 55 respondents, only one school has little more than a writing center run by a part-time director.) The data suggest that SLACs feel strongly enough about the development of their students' writing to have a writing requirement, but there is less consensus as to how a school might help students fulfill that requirement and, as a result, who has stewardship of writing.
The very informality that characterizes SLACs can pose considerable challenges for the WPA.
One of the promises SLACs make to prospective students is that they will be taught almost exclusively by tenure-line faculty, including very senior faculty, from their first semester onward.
In addition to the commitment to undergraduate education and the resources to make sure that that education is provided, for the most part, by tenure-line faculty, SLACs are deeply committed to the notion that undergraduate students are already junior or apprentice scholars.
Historically, SLACs have relied on rankings by private organizations (such as US News) and reaccreditation by the regional accrediting agencies (such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC] and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges [NEASC]) and have had a minimal culture of assessment.
We needed to establish a research context of peer institutions where we could gather data to inform ourselves and our institutions of the portrait of writing at SLAC schools, since this was something that we were unable to garner from other groups or our individual institutions.