By Priya Canzius ’20
Starting next fall, Writing 50, a mandatory course offered to incoming first years and certain transfers at Scripps, will be removed from Scripps College’s General Education Requirements.
“Writing 50 has been required at Scripps for decades; it used to be English 50 before the English Department and the Writing Program were separated,” said Associate Professor Chair of the Department of Writing Kimberly Drake.
The removal of Writing 50 from Scripps’ curriculum emerged from the reviewers of Scripps’ Core program, who assessed the program throughout the Fall and Spring of 2017, according to Drake.
“The reviewers… made two recommendations in their report, one of which was that the current Writing Requirement should be eliminated, and that a new Writing Requirement should be constructed that would be fulfilled in the Core sequence in some way,” Drake said. “This recommendation was then sent to the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC), the members of which wrote a proposal that was approved by a majority of the faculty last April. The Director of the Writing Program was not a member of either committee and had no input on either proposal.”
The Reasoning Behind the Removal of Writing 50… and its Potential Impact
According to Drake, the Committee expressed its concerns “that adjunct instructors lower the college’s national standing and that the college has too many GE requirements.”
Scripps employs part-time professors to act as Writing Lecturers for their Writing 50 courses. Due to their position at the college, these professors are not guaranteed job safety after Writing 50 is removed from Scripps’ curriculum.
According to Drake, most of these Lecturers “who have been teaching the course during the past several years will no longer be able to teach at Scripps, unless they have managed to find temporary positions in other Scripps departments.”
In regards Scripps’ perhaps excess General Education requirements, it is true that Scripps does have more GE requirements than any of the other Claremont Colleges. Scripps currently mandates that students complete fourteen courses to fulfill their General Education requirement (including the three semesters of Core and three semesters of a foreign language), and only the Math and Foreign Language requirements can be waived by scoring well on a Placement Exam administered in students’ first year.
However, according to Drake, Scripps’ position on its General Education requirements “could have been addressed and resolved in a number of different ways, but we were only presented with one proposal that came out of [the] Core review. Given the importance of writing in our students’ college careers, the process of rethinking the Writing Requirement should have included a much more lengthy and thorough discussion, one involving the input of all parties concerned.”
Scripps students, including Writing Tutors, were also not consulted by the reviewers or the FEC.
While Writing Tutors are not attached directly to the Writing 50 program, tutors are “able to build on Writing 50 lessons during [their] tutoring sessions,” according to Writing Tutor Ana Nishioka ’19.
“The benefit of peer tutoring through the Writing Center is two-fold in that it refines the rhetoric skills of both the tutors and tutees,” Nishioka said. “Students are able to receive help with their writing in a way that is not didactic, but collaborative. This gives students the confidence to express themselves and voice their opinions. We like to say, “We make better writers, not better writing,” and in my experience, Writing 50 accomplishes this too. Both Writing 50 and the Writing Center give students a chance to develop writing skills that will carry them throughout all disciplines and beyond their undergraduate education.”
This is not to say that the Writing Center or Writing Tutors will cease to exist on the Scripps campus. However, it is a real possibility that fewer students will be engaging in classes with a focus on writing. Moreover, this decision may change the population of students who do choose to engage in these types of courses.
According to Boston Globe journalist Neil Swidey, “college has been, for a long time, considered the Great Equalizer; whatever you came from, whatever your economic circumstances were, as soon as you get on that college quad, the closing of that gap is supposed to begin magically.”
At this day and age, college seemingly can never be a complete “Equalizer”. For that to occur, the proverbial “playing field” that is so often talked about in regards to equality would have to be static; a more advantaged student would not advance in their education while a less advantaged student caught up with them. Yet, in some ways, this was Writing 50 for Scripps students: students who already understood academic writing and researching were required to take the class and did not necessarily benefit from it, but the students who had not yet mastered these concepts were rewarded with these benefits of taking it.
Although the playing field for these students were not leveled (can it ever be?), it shifted the field a direction that benefited those who, perhaps, did not have a prior education that prepared them for the academic writing that Scripps requires.
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