Faculty approves new writing curriculum

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Beginning in the next few years, first-year students will be required to take a writing-intensive seminar during the fall semester.

The faculty passed the motion proposed by the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning by a vote of 66 to 51.

Vice President for Academic Affairs David Harvey wasn't surprised the bill passed. The proposal grew from another proposal that did not pass last year. Harvey, a member of the committee, said the new bill responds to faculty's concerns with the previous proposal.

"The faculty has embraced the notion that faculty as a whole has responsibility for wiring the instruction of students," he said. "The notion that we will in addition be focusing on writing needs of students in their first year at DePauw will ensure students are well-trained."

Harvey also noted that the new writing program will help students become more sufficient in writing about subjects within their discipline.

Previously, admitted students could test out of English 130 based on an assessment of their writing skills and standardized test scores. The motion coupled the already-required first-year seminar with the new, mandatory writing foundation, no longer allowing students to opt out of "College Writing II."

The writing-foundation classes will not eliminate English 130 from the course catalog. "College Writing I" (English 120) and "English for Non-Native Speakers" (English 110 and 115) will remain available as supplements to the first-year seminar, but will no longer be required. Following these classes offered to freshmen, DePauw sophomores must attain "expository writing competency" by the conclusion of sophomore year, a requirement that remains the same amidst the writing-program changes.

Concerns were raised about whether the improved first-year seminars would be able to effectively replace English 130, known as "College Writing II," if there would be commitment from faculty and whether there would be enough funds for faculty development. Despite these issues, majority of the faculty were in favor of the proposed change.

DePauw Student Government President Christine Walker also supports the proposal.

"Overall, it encourages an attitude that no matter what discipline [you study], you should be good at writing, and I think especially for a liberal arts…that's a really good stance to take with any academic or curriculum policy," she said. Walker, who tested out of College Writing as a freshman, sees this new writing program benefitting future DePauw students.

"I think I missed out on that writing-intensive class my first year, so I would like to see all students have the chance to improve their writing because I think we can all see that high school and college writing are very different," she said.

The faculty also approved proposed changes to the conflict studies and studio art majors, such as graduation requirements in these fields.

The combined sociology/anthropology major was eliminated by a majority vote. Finally, the faculty approved the extension of the withdrawal period. Students may now withdraw from a course until the eighth week of classes, one week longer than previous policy.

Additionally, Management of Academic Operations announced that it had voted to eliminate the 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m to 2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Wednesday-Friday and Monday-Friday time banks by spring 2012.

After reviewing data collected though a questionnaire, talking with the Registrar, and reviewing student concerns, the committee determined that these time banks create the greatest conflict with Monday-Wednesday-Friday course offerings since they occur in the peak demand hours. The committee also announced the approval of an experimental course, "The Tempest," a quarter-credit class intensively focused on William Shakespeare's play in conjunction with the residency with Actors from the London Stage. Several other courses were also added to the catalogue.

During the next faculty meeting, the Student Life and Academic Atmosphere Committee will ask the faculty to vote on a proposed change to the academic handbook. The motion will include an addition of a new section, XI, titled "Timely Feedback" to the academic policies of the handbook.

Feedback includes grades, discussions of or responses to drafts of a paper or project, or reviewing and discussion quiz answers in class. This concern was brought to the faculty by DePauw Student Government, which has heard concerns about professor feedback from many students.

Harvey believes that faculty input is essential in adapting curriculum.

"I think that it's important for the faculty to always be thinking about how to change the curriculum in ways that respond to the changing needs in students and the changing experience of the faculty," he said.