Writing center awaits funding

On the third floor of the Marriott Library, students can find help with their writing

Since September 2003, the U’s writing center-located in the library-has offered free tutoring and assistance services to those in need. The services the center provides include side-by-side interactive editing, topical analysis, punctuation and grammatical tutoring, all free of charge to students.

Members of the writing center staff are formally trained.

“We know writing. We’re trained to work with writing,” said Maureen Mathison, associate dean of the College of Humanities and incoming director of the University Writing Program. “When you have a one-on-one tutoring session in the writing center, you have a session with someone [who is] trained. You don’t get that type of attention elsewhere.”

Katie Higgins, a U communication student, serves as a receptionist for the writing center. She said that the center should be treated as a tool for learning, not an editing machine.

“We don’t just proofread papers. You don’t just drop them off here, have us correct them for you and then hand them back…we work one-on-one with you so you can recognize your own mistakes and be able to fix them yourself,” Higgins said.

U students seem to be excited about the writing center.

According to the most up-to date figures available, students from 12 of the 15 colleges on campus utilized the center during the Fall Semester 2003. These students received assistance in everything from writing essays for lower-division courses to preparing a cover letter for a job.

According to Mathison, an analysis of the operating hours and number of tutoring sessions completed shows that the tutors at the writing center have been constantly engaged in helping students, and thus fulfilling its goal.

An example of this constant interaction, Mathison said, is that 830 tutoring sessions were held during the 2003 Fall Semester. That amounts to tutors helping students with their writing approximately 70 hours per week.

Mathison said these figures indicate that the U’s writing center is not underused, as implied by a previous headline in The Daily Utah Chronicle. Mathison said the writing center is fulfilling its duties and is a valuable asset to the U campus.

“I always call writing the ‘ghost major,’ because you cannot get out of college and into the work place without being able to write well,” Mathison said.

January Lever, a U junior studying marketing, said that although she has yet to visit the center because she was unaware of its existence, the concept of free tutoring is appealing to her.

“I think a lot of students need help with their papers,” Lever said. “It’s good that it’s free because I don’t think I would pay someone to help edit my work.”

Suzanna Phillips, a U junior in environmental studies, agreed with Lever, but said that extended hours of operation for the center would be helpful.

“Lots of students procrastinate and write papers late at night,” Phillips said.

The U’s writing center was brought into existence thanks in large part to funds generated and provided by the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

According to Mathison, ASUU gave approximately $25,000 as a one-time start-up budget last year.

“ASUU provided the start-up money, and that was wonderful,” Mathison said. “They recognized the need for a writing center and saw it as a good investment. Essentially, what you see at the writing center is all thanks to ASUU.”

However, while the $25,000 was sufficient to get the writing center off the ground, there are other budgetary needs which are not satisfied by the start-up capital.

Mathison said there is an operational budget that is used to pay the salary of the writing center staff a competitive hourly wage and cover additional supply expenses. Mathison said this budget needs to be renewed annually.

The center’s staff is currently waiting to hear exactly how much their operational budget will be for next year, and where that money will come from.

Mathison said that the operational budget will likely be fronted by U officials. While it is not certain how much the writing center will receive, Mathison said she is confident the center will get some money.

“I can say that I think it is not only possible, but likely that we will get continued funding from the upper administration,” Mathison said. “It would be foolish not to support students who use the writing center. Students have shown that there is a need for it, and I think the university will recognize that.”

Mathison said the center will likely have to wait until the end of the academic year to know just how much operational money it will receive.

“At this point, we are in the middle of the budget cycle, with so much going on across campus, so we can’t say exactly what our budget is going to be next year,” Mathison said.

Regardless of the current operational budget issues, Mathison is confident that the U’s writing center will be around in the future to help students.

“We will be around,” Mathison said. “We will be there for the campus and we will be there for the students.”

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