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Writing requirement changes for first-years, sophomores

Students must now submit writing sample related to topic within concentration

Dean of the College Maud Mandel announced a slight change to the writing requirement, effective for the Class of 2018 and beyond, in an email to all first-years and sophomores Feb. 10. Students could previously submit a piece of written work to satisfy the second writing requirement, but that option is now subject to the approval of each concentration’s director, and the work must be on a topic in a student’s concentration.

Otherwise, students must take a WRIT-designated course between their fifth and seventh semesters, which is unchanged from the previous requirement. The changes also include more stringent enforcement of the previously existing rule that the writing requirement be completed before an undergraduate’s eighth semester.

Instituted as part of the universal writing requirement created after a 2008 review by the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, the option to submit a writing sample is known informally as the “upload option”  and was taken by only 214 students in the last academic year. Submitted work had to be 7,000 words or more, could be on any subject and would be reviewed through the Writing Center.

But the previous version of the upload option faced some issues. Grant Glovin ’16, an undergraduate representative on the College Curriculum Council, said that the CCC began to review the writing requirement due to the “realization that as seniors were submitting pieces of writing to fulfill the second part of the writing requirement, there wasn’t a mechanism in place to evaluate them.”

Additionally, Glovin said the rule that students had to complete the requirement between their fifth and seventh semesters was not strictly enforced — many students were permitted to do so in their eight semester. Problems arose concerning graduation when students failed their WRIT-designated course or the writing they submitted was low quality, he added.

The CCC “made the narrow change to enforce what was already on the books, namely that the second part of the writing requirement has to be completed by the seventh semester,” Glovin said, adding that the change was also instituted to bring “a little bit of structure to these writing submission options.”

Glovin said he did not think these changes would become an issue, given that most underclassmen have not yet considered how to complete the second part of their writing requirement.  “I don’t think people think that far ahead, generally,” he said.

Michelle Xiong ’18, a biology concentrator, said that the change in the writing requirement policy was not likely to be a problem. She said that she did not know about the upload option until reading Mandel’s email. “I’m sure I can find (a WRIT-designated course) that I can enjoy,” she added.

Rodriguez and Glovin both said the goal of the change to the writing requirement was to make sure that students who choose to upload work are able to do so in a structured way that allows them to learn about writing within their concentration.

Many students resort to the upload option only after failing to find WRIT-designated courses in their concentrations, but “there seemed to be courses that aren’t WRIT that should be,” Rodriguez said. “One of the things we are working with faculty on is making sure there is consistency in the way the WRIT designation is applied.”

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