Writing center gets funding despite student criticism

After a bit of a rough ride, the University Writing Center is making progress.

Last March, the center had secured funding for only one year of operation. Now, co-director Maureen Mathison said the center has received ongoing funding from the U’s administration.

“We are very thankful that the need for student writing assistance is being recognized here at the U,” she said.

Mathison said student usage is up from 800 tutoring sessions in the fall of 2003 to 1,200 sessions in the fall of 2004.

Suzie Michelson, a sophomore, is taking advantage of the free services.

“If it wasn’t for the writing center, I would be flunking two of my classes,” she said. “The tutors there have a way of talking to me better than my teacher.”

Mathison said the invitation to the 2005 Rocky Mountain Writing Conference was an acknowledgement that the center has improved and will be around for a while.

The center’s success has not come without bumps in the road, however.

“To be honest, we have had a few complaints, but I don’t think that’s too bad,” Mathison said.

“The center has had great results, but occasionally we get a few students that don’t like our services,” said Edward Granda, a tutor.

Sometimes tutors will approve student papers that eventually receive a poor grade from teachers, according to Granda.

“We [the tutors] can’t write the story for the student; we can only guide them in the process,” Granda said.

The center isn’t alone in receiving criticism.

“Many English teachers are great writers, but have trouble communicating on the same level as students,” Mathison said. Granda added that some students have had trouble finding time to work on a one-on-one basis with teachers.

To improve student-teacher communication, U professors are working with tutors from the center to improve various issues as they arise.

“The [center’s outreach] program is a great model for the writing program on campus,” said Susan Olson, professor of political science. “The program helps give teachers better insight into writing and critiquing student writing.”

Mathison explained “our services act as a great supplement to the teacher’s expertise.”

Also, the writing center is a common “middle ground” between student and teacher rapport, Granda said.

“This is a very important service to the U,” Olson said. Mathison and Olson are looking at ways to incorporate the outreach program into classes next year, Olson said.

“Improving student-teacher communication is one of our main goals, but writing, of course, comes first,” Mathison said.

Plans for a larger center and small annex outlets are in the works and the center’s directors are looking at designs for a fully dedicated writing center. For now, the center will remain on the third floor of the Marriott Library.

Students who want help may make an appointment by visiting the center or calling 587-9122.

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