Council and Committee Briefs

News from The University Writing Committee

The University Writing Committee of the Faculty Senate held its first meeting of the academic year on Friday, September 21. The University Writing Committee (UWC), an official body of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Faculty Senate, is charged with:

(a) Recommending policies concerning the administration and operation of the University Writing Program (UWP);

(b) Monitoring and overseeing the Freshman component of the UWP;

(c) Approving and monitoring the Junior Year Writing (JYW) component in the University’s academic units;

(d) Evaluating the program and, on the basis of this evaluation, suggesting changes in procedures or policies; and

(e) Advising the Provost on the distribution of funds designated for the JYW component.

The meeting covered several agenda items, including updates on changes to FYW and JYW, and a review of the Writing Center. The first sections of online JYW courses are being offered this year. This has been a few years in the making, and is finally becoming a reality. A survey is also being conducted to learn the first language of anyone enrolled in the FYW course, with the goal of better serving non-native speakers in these courses. JYW is working on implementing an online review process for all syllabi, and to decide which classes are approved as JYW courses.

The University Writing Committee also conducted its first quinquennial review of the writing center in 2011-2012, resulting in a series of recommendations: “To meet the challenges the Writing Center currently faces, the Committee recommends the following:

  • “Increase staffing and space to meet increased demand for tutoring sessions.”
  • “Offer higher hourly wages to compete with the wages offered to other highly trained student employees in order to recruit and retain the best tutors possible, especially those from the hard sciences and Engineering.”
  • “Provide technical resources and staffing to support the Writing Center’s ability to provide on-line tutoring for off-campus students.  The Committee commends the Writing Center staff for piloting an on-line tutoring process in Spring 2012 using Skype and Google docs and urges the University to provide the necessary resources to make on-line tutoring a reality.”
  • “Provide support for the development of Writing Center programs and services to assist faculty with writing pedagogical training to address writing issues that come up in their classes.”

Lastly, the committee discussed its plans to organize several workshops designed at aiding UMass writing instructors in the development of their own writing pedagogy  and knowledge pertaining to plagiarism and information literacy. The following dates have been targeted for the workshops:

  • Friday, December 7, 2012, 11:30 – 1:30, Plagiarism Workshop
  • Friday, March 1, 2013, 11:30 – 1:30, Information Literacy Workshop

Committee brief submitted by: Matthew Ferrari, Graduate Representative on the University Writing Committee.

September 27, 2012.



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