4Cs–Then and Now

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4Cs, the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (4c22), takes place online March 9-March 12, 2022. In a 2013 Bits blog post, I offered an unconventional guide to the convention. Examining the guide years later, I find that the most relevant section remains a series of questions that invite the audience to reflect on students (lightly revised):

In moments when I feel most overwhelmed by my surroundings, I try to remember students and what I can bring home to share with them. I continually ask myself: How can I make time to learn new skill sets or to attend to new theories and ideas that will allow me to grow as a teacher/scholar— and for students to have access to the wider world of scholarship in rhetoric and composition and writing studies?   

In this context, I want to offer a bit of history. By 2013, I understood the challenges posed by the convention, especially trying to absorb and process so many sessions, exhibits, and workshops all in a span of four days. However, 2013 felt different to prior years. That year, the convention was held at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, which offered inexpensive hotel rooms– and a casino.

With all that in mind, Las Vegas felt like a refuge. When needed, I could escape the feeling of overwhelm in convention crowds, despite o not playing casino games. I found solace in the casino at the Riviera, The casino, as I recall, had a room with only slot machines, and those slot machines made the room pop with colorful lights and the sounds of canned music. In that cacophony of light and sound, I somehow found an immense sense of comfort, a welcome relief for my overloaded working memory, and a chance to refocus.


Neon sign outside the Riviera.jpg

 Photo by Susan Bernstein, Las Vegas, Nevada. March 14, 2013.


Additionally, and significantly in 2022, 4Cs offers expanded attention to access. This expansion grows out of concerns about accessibility at the 2019 convention in Pittsburgh, the last time before the pandemic that 4Cs met in person. The next year,  in September 2020, Adam Hubrig and Ruth Osorio hosted a symposium, Enacting a Culture of Access in Our Conference Spaces, in College Composition and Communication, one of the major journals in writing studies. Anchored by many voices and experiences, the symposium presents an activist space for reimagining accessibility at 4Cs. 

This year, 4Cs will once again meet online and there will be enhanced opportunities for refocusing. The changes in technology mean that  the convention need not be absorbed in four short days. Anyone who registers for 4Cs will have access to the online archive until Friday June 10th. With this extension , my working memory will have more time to process the convention slowly and in manageable chunks.  

One manifestation of that activist space is a comprehensive accessibility guide and a visual miniguide written by Sean Kamperman (committee chair), Morgan Blair, Andrea Olinger, and Jeanne Popowits. Contrast that to 2013, when the  Hospitality Guide contained a single page with a link to an Accessibility Guide offered by the CDICC (Committee on Disability Issues). The guide, composed by local accessibility coordinator, Michael Intinarelli, local arrangements chair Robyn Rohde, and the 2013 CDICC chair Jay Dolmage, could be downloaded as a Word document, and offered a detailed description of the floorplan, as well as the sights and sounds of the Riviera. 

Rereading that description in 2022, I find a poignant sense of history in a place that no longer exists. In 2015, the casino and hotel were closed down, and in 2016, three years after 4c13, the Riviera was imploded.  

However, I would prefer not to end this post with an implosion. Instead, as I revisit the blog post from 2013, I notice another guideline: “Remember the global context.” The example I used was a memory from ten years earlier. In 2003, 4Cs convened in Manhattan and coincided with the beginning of George W. Bush’s declaration of war against Iraq, and subsequent street protests in Times Square and Washington Square. I remember walking into the convention hotel after attending one of the protests, my hair dripping with rain.

In 2022, I feel no nostalgia. As I revise this post in early March, Ukraine is at war, and the situation changes with each passing hour. For me, that global context remains inseparable from remembering my students. How can I keep students’ concerns at the center in a constantly evolving world? Attending 4Cs will not answer this question. Nevertheless, with extended access, I hope to find–and to pass along–opportunities to learn and grow.

About the Author
Susan Naomi Bernstein (she/they) writes, teaches, and quilts, in Queens, NY. She blogs for Bedford Bits, and her recent publications include “The Body Cannot Sustain an Insurrection” in the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics and “After Basic Writing” in TETYC. Her book is Teaching Developmental Writing. Other publications include “Theory in Practice: Halloween Write-In,” with Ian James, William F. Martin, and Meghan Kelsey in Basic Writing eJournal 16.1, “An Unconventional Education: Letter to Basic Writing Practicum Students in Journal of Basic Writing 37.1, “Occupy Basic Writing: Pedagogy in the Wake of Austerity,” in Nancy Welch and Tony Scott’s collection Composition in the Age of Austerity. Susan also has published on Louisa May Alcott, and has exhibited her quilts in Phoenix, Arizona and Brooklyn, NY.