UK’s Writing Center could be more helpful

The Writing Center at the William T. Young Library is supposed to help students perfect their papers, but that is hardly the case.

Amanda Powell

The Writing Center’s website says, “The Writing Center assists University of Kentucky students, faculty, and staff with the process of writing.” But it’s hard to assist when appointments can’t exceed 30 minutes.

As I walked past its office windows on a Wednesday evening, no tutors were working with students. Most looked like they were working on personal tasks.

At the entrance, the receptionist told me I needed an appointment, but only one spot was available at 8 p.m.

While I sat down to wait, the receptionist walked back to speak to the tutor I would be working with.

But instead of telling her that the next appointment arrived, she stood and had a conversation for the 20 minutes I was waiting.

When I could finally sit down with the tutor at 8 p.m., she told me to pick the most problematic section of my paper we could work on because my appointment was only 30 minutes.

To make matters worse, the tutor had no concept of time. She tried to wrap up early because she was staring at the clock on my computer that runs 10 minutes fast.

If the Writing Center is going to require students to have an appointment and only work with tutors for 30 minutes, other services should be offered.

The services at The Study peer tutoring program offer tutors six days a week without appointments, and students can stay for as long as it’s open.

How can students consider the Writing Center a proper program when we can’t even have our six page papers edited?

We are going to college at a reputable university; most papers assigned will be five pages or more.

Karin Lewis, the director of UK Academic Enhancement, said, “As stated in our mission, AE is student-responsive. Therefore, in order to provide new or expanded services, there must be a demonstrated need/demand.

So far, students are not coming to The Study requesting peer tutoring for writing. So, we have not pursued it further than the APP (Academic Preparation Program) and peer tutoring in the humanities, for now.”

What good is the Writing Center if you can only get three pages edited at a time?

Go to The Study and drop in a suggestion at the front desk that you want writing tutors who can give help on the spot. Or you can send an email to TheStudy@uky.edu.

We should be getting help from other students for however long we need if we’re the ones paying tutors’ salaries with our tuition.

I’m not willing to pay someone to do his or her homework when a student is waiting to get help; you should not either.

Amanda Powell is a journalism junior. Email opinions@kykernel.com.

BirdBird says:

In response to John, or Mr. Entitlement, who seems to think the tiny portion of his tuition which is distributed among thousands of services and hundreds of departments is directly paying for anything, you sir, are one of the severely misguided. I consider your response to be part and parcel of the grave misunderstanding at work behind this piece and some of it’s defendants. It sounds like you are comfortable ordering people around. Did you grow up in a house with servants? Do you see people who offer you a service as your subordinate that you can march around?

“And if I want to get a “comprehensive” review of my paper I’ll go ask my mommy if she thinks its a good paper . . . If all your “job” requires of you is to give a paper a “look over” and come up with a few comments then I consider that wasted money.”

First of all, “a look over” and a “comprehensive review” are at odds. They are actually two separate things all together. Which is it? You don’t seem to be able to articulate yourself well. In fact, you have undermined your own case by contradicting what you say. Looks like you could use the writing center, my dear John.

Mair says:

Having worked in a writing center and as a professor in the university setting, I have some advice for students.

1. In the writing center where I worked, we had appointments for either thirty minutes or an hour. We told students to allow for five minutes of preliminary discussion about the assignment, and we cut the appoints off after 25 minutes so we could fill out the paperwork for that student. This was because we often had back-to-back appointments and wouldn’t have time otherwise. Students knew this going in, though I can’t tell you how many times they forgot, even after being told at the beginning of the appointment.

2. Do not rely on being a walk-in. Schedule your appointment ahead of time. Also, don’t wait until the night before your paper is due and expect a tutor to fix everything for you.

3. For those of you who are unclear about what we mean we say we give comprehensive feedback rather than line-editing, let me explain. We read your paper, and we look for some major issues: organization, coherence, and unity. If those are problematic, we tell you, you need to work on “organization.” Here’s how.

After we’ve settled the major issues, we look for grammar. Let’s say you have no idea how the “comma conjunction” rule works. We say, “Look at this sentence. You need a comma before the conjunction because it’s between two independent clauses.” We then define an independent clause. We then tell you to go through your paper and find your mistakes and fix them on your own, after the appointment. We then move on to your subject-verb agreement.

4. This is how we work. We do not fix your papers, nor do we rewrite them. We tell you what the problems are, starting with the big three, and then worry about the grammar. If you have a lot of problems, this will take more than one session. For example, a student may come back and have a comma before every conjunction–and then we have to explain that the comma doesn’t need to be there unless the conjunction is between two independent clauses (or if it’s in a list of three or more, but that’s another discussion entirely).

I have encountered too many students who wait until the last minute to complete an assignment and then get angry when tutors do not line edit their papers and point out every mistake. We’re supposed to be helping you learn, and doing it for you isn’t helping you learn.

5. Education is not a business. You’re paying for knowledge, not grades. It is up to you to be a proactive learner. If you go into a university setting expecting to come out with a diploma just because you’re paying tuition, then you seriously need to reconsider your goals.

Anonymous says:

It saddens me that some of those who have left comments have stated that they will not use the Writing Center after this article and subsequent comments. Your decision to come to the Writing Center should not be based on this article or on comments you have read. I know that I will not stop reading The Kernel even though I disagree with this Opinions piece. I will not stop trying my hardest as a tutor even though I know there are some students who won’t be satisfied with my work. I will not stop going to The Study, even though I know Ms. Powell is an employee there. Just as I cannot base my entire perception of a student service on a few opinions, you should not either. If you don’t wish to use the service, that it is fine, but please make that decision based on your own experiences rather than the words of others. I am sorry that Ms. Powell had a negative experience, and I am sorry that the conversation on this article has turned her into a victim. I truly hope that she will come back to the Writing Center in the future. There are plenty of people willing to help you. You just have to make clear what kind of help you are looking for.

M N says:

SurrealWorld: Agreed.

Most undergraduates don’t know the difference between “editing” and “revising”. Re-read the article replacing “editing” with “revising” and see how angry you get now.

The Writing Center is a service. In customer-service industries, the service center’s opinion really doesn’t matter. It is only their perception by their clients that is important. Imagine if this same scene happened in Target or Walmart – if someone who obviously works there does not acknowledge you or help you, you are going to get upset. Usually, companies have policies about this (such as encouraging off-duty employees to not be in public areas where they could be mistaken as on-duty). Perhaps the tutors at the Writing Center, as a program that deals with providing services to clients, should consider the way the public perceives them instead of expecting the general public to know the behind-the-scenes workings & policies of the department or the difference between “editing” in the rhetorical sense and “editing” in the lay sense.

While I agree that Amanda could have sent this article to the director of the Writing Center instead of to the Kernel, a lot of responsibility can be placed on the shoulders of the Writing Center and its (obviously very passionate) tutors. I’m appalled by the mean-spirited and personal attacks by the WC tutors on Ms. Powell. She came to see you and was unsatisfied with her experience. But instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt (for believing, like most students, that the WC would help her with her whole paper and not just one section), you reamed her for having an opinion that differed from your own. (And SHE’S the one that needs to “develop thick skin”?)

Based on the comments of the WC tutors here, I don’t plan on ever returning there for help – not if the tutors are going to talk about me like this when I don’t understand something (like the purpose of a department or the multiple definitions of “edit”). I thought tutors were there to help you learn and understand, not to criticize you for not already knowing and understanding. My mistake. (I guess I just learned something!)

SurrealWorld says:

Amanda seems to have hit a nerve! Funny that the so-called articulate writing center students cannot formulate a thoughtful response without personally attacking the writer. What undergraduates in their right minds would want to frequent writing center tutors, who are so hostile and condescending towards help-seeking undergraduate students? If students don’t understand what the writing center is about, is it not the writing center’s responsibility to inform the students? How can you blame students for not understanding a service when that service apparently hasn’t been clearly explained or promoted? Also, the term editing has different connotations for undergrads than it does for those in the writing field. Thirty minutes is not enough time to delve into deeper writing issues. Heck, it probably isn’t enough time to simply edit, even editing as writers understand the term. Let’s look at this as a learning opportunity. Amanda felt like she hadn’t gotten the help she was seeking. Instead of attacking her and her abilities, if the writing center truly cared about providing help, shouldn’t the first response be, “There seems to be some sort of misunderstaning. Come back and let us work together to help you understand our services and help you become a better writer.”

Joe Schmoe says:

This paper is funded through student fees, correct? Therefore, Amanda’s salary from the paper is funded from tuition, right? If both are correct, then why do I have to pay for someone this ignorant to have a platform? We should only hire Pulitzer Prize winning writers to work for this paper – not egotistical, uninformed underclassmen with an axe to grind.