Future of writing aid program unclear

University students looking for one-on-one help with writing assignments may lose a valuable campus resource next spring as the future of the Writing Associates Program remains unclear, a program official said.

Dan Williams, director of the Writing Associates Program, said the group’s budget is set to expire in June 2010, at the end of the fiscal year. Williams said there was a possibility that the program might be continued in a different form next year, but that he had not yet heard of any decision.

“It might just be added on to the Writing Center,” Williams said. “It would be hard for me to forecast (the future of the program) right now.”

Bonnie Melhart, dean of university programs and associate provost of academic affairs, said she requested funding to continue the program next year. Under the proposed budget, the Writing Associates Program would become part of the larger Writing Center, she said.

“If budgeted funding is approved in this way, the program would be a smaller scale than before,” Melhart said. “The associates would be trained as part of the consultants training for student workers in the (Writing Center).”

Williams said original funding for the Writing Associates Program came from Chancellor Victor Boschini’s Strategic Initiatives Fund, which allowed faculty and university members to submit proposals for potential projects. From the start, participating project sponsors were aware that their budgets would end in the spring of 2010, Williams said.

“We were told … that if we could demonstrate the success of our programs, that there was a good chance that they would be folded over into the regular budget,” Williams said. “With the economic downturn last year, the possibilities for renewal in the regular budget dimmed considerably.”

The Writing Associates Program imbeds a student associate in participating classes for a semester or year in order to provide specific help to students taking the class, Williams said.

Writing Associate Molly Mahan, a senior writing and philosophy major, said she attended class and was available to aid students with papers and other writing assignments. She said she worked solely with freshmen and sophomores in English composition classes.

“If the (program) is no longer available, a lot of people, despite the presence of the Writing Center … won’t have the access to become better writers and gain greater skills,” Mahan said.

Linnette Romero, a sophomore pre-business major, said a writing associate in her European history class freshman year was helpful because she showed her the teacher’s specific paper-writing structure.

“Having a writing associate was beneficial, but it could easily be something that I could do without,” Romero said. “I think if you’re an upperclassman it might be a bit more beneficial because classes are more demanding.”

Williams said conversation continued in his office regarding the future of the Writing Associates Program, but that students would miss out most if the program was not renewed next year.

“The basic point is that it’s a great program and it has demonstrated that it can richly contribute to our campus culture,” Williams said. “It would be a little sad to see it disappear.”