Scripps College to eliminate Writing 50 requirement

Graphic by Diamond Pham

Scripps College will no longer require Writing 50 for first-year students starting fall 2019, Elizabeth Hamilton, a spokesperson for Scripps, wrote in an email to TSL. The three-semester Core sequence will remain the same.

Writing 50 is typically taken during the first semester by first-year students in conjunction with Core 1 and focuses on the writing process, according to its course description.

“I am devastated by the elimination of the Writing Requirement, a longstanding general education requirement at the college, as well as by the manner in which it was done,” Kimberly Drake, writing department chair, wrote in an email to TSL.

Since the class is no longer a requirement, the writing and rhetoric faculty has decided to stop offering Writing 50 as a course, Drake wrote. Instead, they are working on new courses available to all students interested in developing their writing skills.

“The way curricular changes happen at Scripps is normally this: someone makes a recommendation to [the Faculty Executive Committee] (or FEC initiates it on its own). The FEC votes on whether to endorse the recommendation, and if so then it goes to the full faculty for a vote,” Yuval Avnur, a philosophy professor and member of the FEC, wrote in an email to TSL. “The faculty as a whole ultimately decides on any curricular changes. This was the process followed in the case of the Writing 50 requirement.”

“This year’s suggestion to eliminate the Writing 50 requirement originated in an external review of the Core Program, which took place last academic year. The reviewers were all prominent humanities scholars from top universities. During their review, dozens of faculty members from across the campus gave them input, some of which was about the relation of the Writing 50 requirement to the Core requirements,” Avnur wrote. 

“One of the suggestions that the reviewers ultimately made is to consider eliminating the Writing 50 requirement. The Core Steering Committee, which is composed of faculty members from all divisions: arts, letters, social science, and natural science, discussed the reviewers’ recommendations at length,” Avnur wrote. “The Core Steering Committee supported the reviewers’ suggestion to eliminate the Writing 50 requirement (along with some other suggestions).”

Prior to the actual vote, the suggestion to eliminate the Writing 50 requirement was thoroughly discussed at multiple faculty meetings. At the April meeting, the faculty discussed the motion at length, and we heard from people on both sides of the issue,” Avnur wrote. “Since this was an FEC motion, the FEC chair presented the matter, but, like all faculty meeting votes, it was overseen by the Dean of Faculty. At the end of the meeting, we voted, and the will of the faculty was clear: roughly 2/3 in favor.”

The FEC outlined three reasons for eliminating Writing 50 in its proposal. The first was Writing 50 relied heavily on adjunct faculty, or part-time and non-tenure-track faculty, which is “economically exploitative,” according to the report.

The heavy reliance on adjunct faculty also “significantly increases the ratio of courses taught by non-full-time faculty at Scripps,” which negatively impacts Scripps’ national standing, the committee wrote in the proposal.

There is uncertainty on the standing of the Writing 50 adjunct faculty and if any will be fired as a result.

“We don’t know absolutely what will happen to all of the Writing 50 adjunct faculty,” said Glenn Simshaw, assistant professor of writing and director of the Writing Center.

The second reason outlined was the time commitment required to take both the Core sequence and Writing 50 — a total of four courses, equivalent to an entire semester’s workload.

The proposal specifically stressed the burden on science majors, who “are at a particular disadvantage because they cannot start a sequential course of study in their first semester,” according to the proposal. “[This] can place Scripps students a year behind those from the other Claremont Colleges pursuing the same major.”

The third reason outlined was the cost of hiring adjunct faculty to teach Writing 50 classes. The proposal states that the elimination of Writing 50 would potentially provide more funding to the writing department at Scripps, and that the dean of faculty had agreed to reallocate a portion of the funds used for Writing 50 accordingly.

The fourth and final reason in the proposal advocating for the removal of Writing 50 was the curricular overlap between Writing 50 and the Core program.

The FEC committee wrote in the statement that “the quantity of required writing in the Core Program is already high, and it would be wise to focus on the quality of instruction to ensure that writing is taught responsibly and effectively, both in Core and throughout the curriculum, rather than continuing to require additional writing courses.”

Corie Astroth SC ’21 agreed that there is an overlap between Writing 50 and Core 1.

“In my experience, I felt like the objectives of both [Writing 50 and Core 1] were very similar,” Astroth said. “I will say I think I had more helpful feedback in my Writing 50 class than I did in my Core 1 class, but I think that was due to the professor and not the course itself.”

Several faculty expressed concerns with the results of the proposal as well as the way the proposal was initiated.

“The reasons noted in the proposal, including that adjunct instructors lower the college’s national standing and that the college has too many GE requirements, could have been addressed and resolved in a number of different ways, but we were only presented with one proposal that came out of a Core review,” Drake wrote.

“Given the importance of writing in our students’ college careers, the process of rethinking the Writing Requirement should have included a much more lengthy and thorough discussion, one involving the input of all parties concerned,” she added.

Drake wrote that the Director of the Writing Program was not a member of either the Core review committee or the FEC, and had no input on the proposal to cut Writing 50.

Faculty and students also expressed concerns with the loss of the specific writing instruction offered in Writing 50.

“One argument [against the proposal] was that the composition instruction in Writing 50 differs from, and can’t be replaced by, that in Core,” Simshaw wrote. “Another was that the requirement was being eliminated without a plan to replace it.”

Lianne Sturgeon SC ’19 said Writing 50 helped her transition from high school to college writing. “[In] Core, you just hit the ground running; they don’t give you as much support,” Sturgeon said. “But [in] Writing 50, you take everything step-by-step.”

Kang was unable to comment at this time on what changes will be implemented to the Core curriculum. The faculty are currently discussing what additions will be made to the Core curriculum, and the changes will be finalized in the spring.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that curricular changes at Scripps College happen through the Faculty Executive Committee and several meetings were held to discuss the measure. The article has been updated to state that the entire faculty decides on curricular changes and the topic was discussed at several meetings. But no meetings were held specifically to talk about the measure. TSL regrets these errors.

This article was last updated Oct. 5 at 1:48 p.m.


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