Reduced funds limit writing center’s services

Josh Linehan

Because of a loss in funding, the Student Writing Center, a resource for all undergraduates needing help with papers, will offer reduced hours and services this year.
The center — located in 306b Lind Hall — offers students free help with writing. In the past, students could schedule weekly appointments and meet with tutors for an extended period of time.
Tutors now are available only on a walk-in, first-come, first-serve basis. All appointments have been cut to 25 minutes.
Until last year, the writing center was funded through the English composition program. Tutor salaries were paid out of a Student Services Fees grant, and center expenses were subsidized through the department.
This year, the writing center will continue to be funded through the fees, although it will receive about 2 percent less than previous years. But because the center has been separated from the composition department, its expenses will no longer be subsidized.
So now tutor salaries, which have increased Universitywide, and center expenses must be paid out of what was previously used for only tutor salaries — a fund which shrunk this year to begin with.
Joan Menefee, interim center director, said the new limitations will make it harder for students to get the help they need.
“Without weekly appointments, students are not getting consistent contact. It’s hard to get much accomplished in 25 minutes,” Menefee said.
In addition to eliminating weekly appointments, the center has been forced to cut back its hours considerably.
Last year, the center was open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday for a total of 50 hours per week. This year, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, a cutback of 17 hours per week.
Former director of the center, Michael Dickel, left the program to become director of the Learning Center at Macalester College due in part to the loss of funds.
“It influenced my decision to leave,” Dickel said. “One of my conditions for staying was that we have at least the same amount of money available.”
While Steven Rosenstone, College of Liberal Arts dean, does not consider the financial situation at the Student Writing Center a cut in funding, Dickel disagreed.
“They say it isn’t a cut, but it still represents a fairly significant loss in the money we have available,” Dickel said.
He stressed the importance of a resource like the writing center for students of all abilities.
“In the two and a half years I was director there, I believe the number of students seeking assistance tripled,” Dickel said. “For the last calendar year the overall gpa of students seeking assistance was over 3.0. This is a service for students of all writing abilities.”
With the start of this year’s campuswide writing intensive requirements, CLA earmarked $523,000 for writing resources around the campus. The writing center is still looking for enough funding to return to full operation.
Associate Professor Andrew Elfenbein, head of the University’s composition department, said he is working hard to regain funds for the writing center. He had the option to close the center or operate it at lesser capacity this year.
“The writing center is important enough that it needs a solid commitment of adequate funds from the University so it doesn’t have to rely on grants,” Elfenbein said.
Where the funding will come from is being debated. Since students from all colleges may use the center, Elfenbein is looking to other sources besides CLA for funds.
“We’re trying to talk to people and get support Universitywide. We’re also very concerned with diversity issues. The Student Writing Center was heavily patronized by international students and by students of color. You hate to see a program like that get cut,” Elfenbein said.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.