In 2004 the Progressive Special Interest Groups and Caucuses Coalition (PSCC) established the Rachel Corrie Award, to be presented each year to a professor who exhibits "courage in the teaching of writing." The award was named in honor of a 23-year-old activist and senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, who was killed on March 16, 2003 in the Gaza Strip. At that time, Corrie was on leave from school and had gone to work in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian group whose members try to disrupt the Israeli Defense Force's anti-terrorist military operations.
PSCC created the Rachel Corrie Award specifically "to honor the memory of this extremely courageous student" each year by "recognizing a teacher ... who has taken professional risks in order to promote social justice through the teaching of writing."
Winners of the Rachel Corrie Award receive $500 in cash; up to two additional, smaller awards may be given each year to individuals or groups deemed worthy by the selection committee, which is composed of three members of PSCC and/or its constituent caucuses. Committee Chair Harriet Malinowitz is an English professor and the author of Textual Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Students and the Making of Discourse Communities. In her published works, she "examines rhetorical theory and criticism, institutional and professional authority, and feminist theory, lesbian studies, and queer theory."
The winner of the 2005 Rachel Corrie Award was a University of Tennessee English professor named Matthew Abraham, who is currently working on what he terms "an analsyis of the controversial academic scholarship of Lani Guinier, Edward Said, Paul de Man, and Norman G. Finkelstein." Abraham first attracted national notice for organizing a panel at the 2003 Modern Language Association conference entitled "The Rhetoric of Resistance: The Intifada and the Literary Imagination." More recently, he has focused "on the rhetorical strategies critical rhetors can use to cope" with the "obstacles" to an objective discussion of the plight of the Palestinians, "one of the most intransigent human rights issues of our time," within "the corporate university." Malinowitz praised Abraham for "bringing Palestine onto the radar screen of a new generation of students -- and that of his rhetorician colleagues." Noam Chomsky was a key player in getting Abraham nominated for the Rachel Corrie Award.
The 2006 recipient of the Rachel Corrie Award was Tom Kerr, Assistant Professor of English at Ithaca College. Since 1996, Kerr has written and taught extensively about U.S. prisons and the death penalty. Advocating "restorative" rather than "retributive" justice, he recently taught a seminar in rhetoric -- titled "Writing for Social Justice, Writing for Change" -- in which his students corresponded directly with prison inmates. In the November 18, 2005 issue of CounterPunch, he wrote an "Open Letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Grant Clemency to Tookie Williams" -- the multiple murderer who would be executed nearly a month later. Kerr is currently editing a book of essays, One Day Deep: Meditations on Death Row by San Quentin Death Row inmate Steve Champion (a/k/a/Adisa Kamara).