Proactive freshmen denied W credit under new system


When freshman Stephanie Martin recently met with her academic advisor, she was delivered "absolutely ridiculous" news: her completion of Intro to Women's Studies, a certified W-course, would not be counted toward her competency fulfillment.
Beginning with the Class of 2016, students will obtain their W competency by completing a First Year Seminar with a heavy emphasis on writing, followed by a W-certified course in their sophomore year. But because of these changes, proactive first year students like Martin will have to repeat their W course as sophomores. Their completion of a W course this year, however successful, is void. And the writing program seems to refuse to make exceptions for this small, albeit significant, group of freshmen.
Why? As a student body, we don't seem to have received an adequate response. It appears that the unfair application of these new policies have been made to ensure an across-the-board uniformity, from the Class of 2016 and on. It appears that this group of students is being inconvenienced - even penalized - for trying to get a head start on requirements that could impede their future academic plans at DePauw.
When I was a rising sophomore, DePauw had just restructured its group requirements. In our advising appointments, my classmates and I were given the option to continue the old track or switch to the three-prong system it has today. Though most of us opted to begin the new system, we still had a choice. Why aren't these W-earning freshmen afforded the same leniency?
We all know how crucial one course can be in making or breaking our academic path at DePauw - it's why you see your Facebook and Twitter feeds erupt with anger every semester as course assignments are released. That one course can determine if you double major, study abroad or graduate early. For this group of students, that one W course that isn't counted can be the deciding factor of their DePauw experience. So why won't our administration budge?
If DePauw students were to pay tuition based on credit hours - as is the policy with larger universities - this unrecognized W course could be considered a "waste" of money. As a writing major, I fully recognize the importance of long-term immersion in the medium. But I also recognize the problem that arises when you tell a student on the pre-med track that they have to take another writing-intensive class outside of their major.
Additionally, these modifications to our competency requirements are putting a strain on our curriculum in a way that they have never done before. There's something to be said about how the rigidity of the new system can infringe upon the liberal arts experience. Competency used to operate like a checklist: have a W by the end of sophomore year, a Q by the end of junior year, etc. Limiting the window for students to obtain their competency requirements takes away a certain degree of our academic freedom.
And how do we differentiate the development of writing from a student's second semester? Their fourth? Their sixth? The system that is being enforced with the Class of 2016 presumes that all students learn and progress at the same rate. It also implies that students will not write in other classes - just like the S requirement assumes that students do not regularly engage in class discussion, debates or presentations.
By this logic, the competency guidelines provide just another advising hoop for students to jump through. I realize that we can't just do away with them altogether - at least not now. But we can encourage our administration to take the first step in fairly granting this group of students their W's. Once credit is given where credit is due, it might be time to revisit the drawing board.

­- Brelage is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind. majoring in English writing.