Writing Center lacks resources to help students

The Writing Center has undergone major changes brought on by SmarThinking, a software introduced to Oswego State last semester by the Office of Learning Services. The software is currently not in use and there are only three writing tutors available to meet with students.

"In a meeting last academic school year, the Writing Across the Curriculum Steering Committee was informed that SmarThinking was introduced to supplement the Writing Center, and that a number of undergraduate tutors had been let go," said Bennet Schaber, the chair of the English and creative writing departments. "Everyone, including the provost was taken by surprise."

There are now three tutors and only one, Steven Smith, is a professional. Smith declined an interview. Walk-in appointments for the Writing Center are limited. Those who would like help need to make a request in advance.

"SmarThinking was piloted during the spring semester," said Robert Moore, director of the Honors program. Students were able to submit their papers and receive corrections and computer-generated comments within the next 24 hours. A small number of students were selected to try the new software. "As of now, it has been put on hold," Moore said.

"The results were mixed," Director of OLS and the Educational Opportunity Program Elyzabeth Wengert said. "The service was identified as useful in some ways and less so in others."

Varied responses caused a hold on the new software so that it could be reevaluated. If SmarThinking is reinstated after the assessment period, then some want it used as a secondary tool for students.

"I’d be lobbying hard for the best possible center," said Michael Murphy, director of College Writing. "I’d want it to go back to the way it was, supplemented by SmarThinking."

Schaber tried SmarThinking, using a paper written by his son. "I did not think that it was helpful," he said. "I don’t know that it is anyone’s fault, but I’m looking for someone to tell me why SmarThinking [was brought into the program.]"

As for how Oswego State intends to pay for SmarThinking, Wengert said, "OLS designated a small percentage of our tutoring funds to run the program, which is why the services were limited." "Once the summary results are reviewed by the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee and the administration, we will determine if we’ll implement the service as part of our tutoring and how it will be funded."

Earlier in the academic year, newly appointed provost, Lorrie Clemo, asked the program directors about their priorities and there was an "overwhelming concern with the writing center," Murphy said.

"The faculty has long been very interested in cultivating the Writing Center," Murphy said. "A really healthy, vigorous writing center is a really important part of the culture of writing on campus."