February 26, 2014

Circular Writing Logic: Or, Here’s Why You Feel You Have No Time

Filed under: writing — jrice @ 8:46 am

Here is the scenario:

The university decides – by a committee – that all students must have a writing requirement. We call it GCCR, a requirement that must be completed for graduation.

Every department must offer one course that meets the requirement’s criteria: 15 pages of writing, feedback, etc. The concept behind the requirement is writing in the disciplines.

Some departments don’t feel completely comfortable with the requirement. We have no WAC/WID program here for faculty development, so many faculty wonder where they are going to learn how to teach writing in the disciplines.

Some of these departments turn to us because we are the writing people.

We’ll teach the specialized writing courses for them. This is good for us. Why? Because the university rewards each unit based on enrollments. Since we are young and still don’t have a major, it is difficult for us to fill undergraduate courses. With these specialized courses and set, almost guaranteed enrollments, we can maintain our so called revenue line. Our revenue is tied to enrollment even though the overall enrollment at the university is the same no matter how many students we teach.

Granted, whether the students take courses with us or with any other department, they will still take, more or less, the same number of credit hours over their four years at UK.  That means, of course, that whether the students take courses with us or with any other department, they still pay the university the same tuition. It doesn’t really matter where they take courses. 25,000 students is still 25,000 students.

Still, this is the system. We have to teach the specialized courses if we know what is good for us.And anyway, we don’t object. We enjoy teaching writing of all kinds.  But the thing is, we’re only 15 people total. There is no way we can suddenly all teach half a dozen or likely more specialized professional writing courses, particularly when only a few of us are even comfortable teaching a form of professional writing, and doubtful anyone wants to do two professional writing service courses a semester from now until whenever.

What’s the answer?

Adjuncts. And graduate students.

Right here is where the record comes to a full tilt scratch.

Or you say: What the what?

Isn’t this GCCR thing supposed to be really important? Shouldn’t it be handled in a way that allows students the opportunity to learn writing by those who are the most experienced? So we offer courses by the least experienced. Why, then, the requirement?

To project the image of general education.

To project the image of providing adequate instruction and a complete education.

To project an image.

But beyond this superficial image, think of all the work that has gone into this project until now. And the work is still ongoing. Committees. Meetings. Drafts. Reports. Circulated forms (and you should see the mess of a form the committee settled on), memorandum of understandings between departments, more meetings, approvals. All of this – who knows how many hours – so that we can settle on the one simple reality check when this is all said and done:

The majority-  if not all of the courses-  in question will be taught by non-professionals,  many of whom are teaching by grabbing whatever course is offered to them.

That’s inefficient. Not to go all Fredrick Taylor here, but what we talk about when we talk about “time” in the university is often this: circular logic that wastes our time.

The instruction will not be professional. And the money, in the end, is the same money because students take a set amount of credit hours no matter what.

Busy? Here’s one reason why.

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