A private graduate college in Vermont stepped in to save a writing program axed by the University of Southern California.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts offered to take over USC’s master’s of professional writing program after the California private university announcedit would end the program, citing a “business decision” amid an ongoing review of its Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Thomas Christopher Greene, the Vermont college’s founding president, said he decided to try to save the 43-year-old program in part because his college and USC share faculty. While the program didn’t fit USC’s vision, it fit Greene’s.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for USC’s arts and sciences college said that Dean Steve Kay and other officials are working to make sure current writing program students can graduate, either at USC or from Vermont.
“He recognizes the excellent pedagogy of the MPW program, but has made this determination as a business decision,” said the spokeswoman, Emily Cavalcanti.
For the Vermont College of Fine Arts, the acquisition – for free – of USC’s program may be something of a coup, if it can capitalize on it.
“Essentially, it’s really an opportunity to create a residential program with some wind at its back,” Greene said. Continue reading “USC writing program heads for the hills”
Professors often frame plagiarism as an ethical problem, with a simple solution: don’t do it. As InsideHigher Ed reports, “For students tempted to plagiarize knowingly, that approach might work. But the academic integrity rhetoric ignores the fact that students sometimes unintentionally plagiarize or misrepresent source material in their work, panelists said Thursday during a session on the topic at the Conference on College Composition and Communication.
“Stephanie Roach, associate professor and director of writing programs at the University of Michigan at Flint, recalled a class discussion about why students misuse sources in their work. Students named all the usual suspects – the assignment was too hard or they ran out of time, for example.
“But Roach was struck by a student who said, “I didn’t think I was that person.” The student had crossed a boundary she’d never thought she would, and Roach wondered how it had happened. The professor said she later mused with colleagues that the war on plagiarism was like the war on drugs, in that academe tells students to “Just say no,” painting a bright line between right and wrong and assuming students have the tools they need to make the right choice.
“But sometimes they don’t. Students might misrepresent a source because they don’t understand it, or don’t know how to weave it in with their own thoughts, panelists said. And open-source culture, where facts and thoughts easily can be “plucked” from webpages, makes that supposed bright line dimmer still.Valerie Seiling Jacobs, a master of fine arts in nonfiction writing candidate at Columbia University, doesn’t lecture her first-year writing students on intentional plagiarism, she said. She tells students that if they’re going to deliberately misuse others’ work, “then you have bigger problems than I can ever help you solve.”Instead, Seiling Jacobs focuses on inadvertent misuses, which are far more plentiful. Continue reading “Rethinking plagiarism”
There are two core concepts that help in understanding transgender people and their experiences. A recent article in The Guardian suggests some guidelines for writing about transgender people.
“First, gender and sex are distinct in this context: sex = biology, ie sex assigned at birth; gender = one’s innate sense of self. Thus, transgender (where the Latin trans means “on the other side of”) signifies someone whose gender differs from their assigned sex.
“Second, while transgender refers in the broadest sense to someone whose sex and gender do not match, cisgender (from the Latin “on this side of”, ie the antonym of trans) refers to those whose sex and gender do match. In other words, anyone not trans is cis.
“If that sounds like a strange or even offensive concept, you are probably cis. We hope it doesn’t make you feel embarrassed or ashamed. If so, consider yourself endowed with a new level of empathy for your trans brothers and sisters. But rest assured it’s only meant as a helpful linguistic signpost for understanding gender diversity.
“With that in mind, here are some proposed guidelines. Transgender should be used as an adjective, shortened to trans after first use: transgender person, trans person. Never “transgendered person” or “a transgender”. (In the case of trans*, the asterisk represents a wildcard, ie any gender minority. Stick to transgender or trans in formal contexts.) Continue reading “Understanding gender diversity”
The term “interrupt” can have many different meanings.
Interrupt also is the title of a new online journal at UC Irvine, published through the campus Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication, featuring innovative undergraduate non-fiction writing. As Interrput‘s inaugural editorial statement puts it:
“According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “interrupt” is defined as to “do or say something that causes someone to stop speaking; to cause [something] to not be even or continuous; and to change or stop the sameness or smoothness of [something].” These definitions made us cognizant of the fact that “interrupt” can engender a variety of negative connotations: it was, in fact, this realization that initially resulted in disagreement about the name of the publication.
“Originally entitled “The Word Count,” the journal’s name was changed in response to a felt need for a unifying principle that would set this journal apart from other UC Irvine publications, thus allowing for the emergence of a unique literary identity. It was decided that “Interrupt,” both as a title and concept, would contribute to this sense of innovativeness. Continue reading ““Interrupt” Journal”
The SAT is changing. Again. For the second time in just over a decade, the College Board, which administers the exam, is planning to redesign the exam, writes James Murphy in The Atlantic.
“The details of the redesign aren’t public yet, but it looks like the result will be similar to the last time: Several cosmetic changes will raise the anxiety of students and their parents but will likely fail to address the deepest problem with the test or even make it worse. This is good news for people like me, who make a living as an SAT tutor, but bad news for everybody else.
“When the redesigned SAT premiered after several years of planning in 2005, there were two major changes, one to content and another to structure. The old Math and Verbal (renamed Critical Reading) sections were joined by a Writing section, which includes an essay assignment that asks test takers to “develop a point of view on an issue,” such as, “Should we question the decisions made by figures of authority?” or “Can success be a disaster?” And, as a result of adding Writing to the test, the total length of the test increased by 25 percent, the number of sections went from seven to ten, sections were shortened, and the number of questions in the Math and Reading Sections went down, making each question more valuable as a percentage of the available points while increasing the fatigue factor on the exam, as College Board’s own researchers acknowledged.
“The essay has provoked many criticisms (here, here, and here), but the loudest critic of the essay these days is David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which administers the SAT. Coleman was the lead architect of the Common Core State Standards, which now shape the English Language Arts and Math curriculums in public primary and secondary schools in 45 states. He’s been praised by Arne Duncan, Bill Clinton, Time magazine, and others as a champion of academic reform. He has now turned his attention to fixing the essay section of the SAT. Continue reading “Again changing the SAT writing exam”
Writing is lonely and boring.
I can write only in the morning, and I have to teach in the morning.
I can write only in the evening, and I’m too exhausted after a day of teaching.
I haven’t done enough research yet.
I haven’t analyzed all of my data.
By the time I’m finished collecting and analyzing data, I’m not interested in writing up the results.
I’m a terrible writer.
I’m afraid to show anyone what I’ve written.
I can’t move on to the next sentence until the one I’m working on is perfect, and the one I’m working on is rarely perfect.
I can’t finish a draft.
I hate doing revisions.
I’m interested in too many things.
I’m no longer interested in my topic.
My students drain me of time and energy.
Continue reading “Excuses for not writing”
The best part about writing a dissertation is finding clever ways to procrastinate. The following appears in a blog located (identified?) as R Is My Friend.”The motivation for this blog comes from one of the more creative ways I’ve found to keep myself from writing. I’ve posted about data mining in the past and this post follows up on those ideas using a topic that is relevant to anyone that has ever considered getting, or has successfully completed, their PhD.
“I think a major deterrent that keeps people away from graduate school is the requirement to write a dissertation or thesis. One often hears horror stories of the excessive page lengths that are expected. However, most don’t realize that dissertations are filled with lots of white space, e.g., pages are one-sided, lines are double-spaced, and the author can put any material they want in appendices. The actual written portion may only account for less than 50% of the page length. A single chapter may be 30-40 pages in length, whereas the same chapter published in the primary literature may only be 10 or so pages long in a journal. Regardless, students (myself included) tend to fixate on the ‘appropriate’ page length for a dissertation, as if it’s some sort of measure of how much work you’ve done to get your degree. Any professor will tell you that page length is not a good indicator of the quality of your work. Regardless, I feel that some general page length goal should be established prior to writing. This length could be a minimum to ensure you put forth enough effort, or an upper limit to ensure you aren’t too excessive on extraneous details. Continue reading “How long to make your dissertation”