Concern for the future direction of the Expository Writing Program has grown steadily since the College Faculty Council (CFC) decided to deny a third tenure track position for the program on February 22.
Professors worry that if CFC once again rejects the Expository Writing Program's request for a third tenure track position later this semester, problems will undoubtedly arise within the program. Associate Professor of Expository Writing and English Jan Cooper said, "If we totally lost the third position, it is our opinion that the writing requirement will have to be completely reconsidered by the entire general faculty."
A faculty mandate in 1983 set up the Expository Writing Program in order to support students who needed guidance in passing the basic writing requirements and improving their writing skills. The legislation states that three positions must be filled in the program if the College was to maintain a writing profiency requirement.
Chair of the Expository Writing Committee and Professor of English Robert Pierce said, "We desperately need that third tenure track position to keep the writing program going. As to its becoming a tenure track position as opposed to the ongoing temporary arrangement, it does seem to me crazy. It's been 14 years … and that's a long time to keep a temporary position."
He added, "The need is demonstrated and I think it is very harmful to the continuity of the program to have to bring new people in over and over again."
According to Pierce, two possible outcomes can result if the tenure track position is not approved by CFC. One would be that the Expository Writing Program would have to continue with temporary appointments for the third position and the other would be that the position would not be secured at all and the program would be reduced to two professors.
Chair and Professor of English Katherine Linehan said, "Oberlin College needs to support writing as a skill important for college, but also for careers. Therefore, the case for a third tenure track position is probably a strong one, though I have not read all the documents or listened to all the discussion about what will be involved."
Linehan also said, "I think that stringing along a series of temporary positions is very hard on everyone involved in trying to recruit and retain people."
According to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Mary Ella Feinleib, CFC did not reject the third tenure track position but merely postponed making the decision until CFC was able to see all the position requests that came in at the predetermined time.
"I think the Expository Writing Program is an extremely important program at Oberlin, and I don't think of it as a remedial program," Feinleib said. "I'd love to see more writing intensive courses that are taught in a variety of departments. Good writing is critical in everything we do."
Feinleib said that because of her own resignation, she is unsure of what the CFC will decide about the position under soon-to-be Acting Dean James Helms. Feinleib said, however, "I am very sympathetic to a serious consideration of a third regular position, and I'm sure it will get serious consideration. I am still speaking for Council and we want to see the whole range of positions later in the semester."
The Educational Plans and Policies Committee (EPPC) will continue its review of individual departments requests. Chair of EPPC and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carol Lasser said, "Basically, I think that EPPC was very impressed with the achievements of the [Expository Writing] program as demonstrated in the program review [last month]."
Associate Professor of English William Patrick Day, who was one of the inside reviewers of the program, said, "My position on this is that it makes sense to have an Expository Writing Program. The reason we have it is because literary studies have been diverging the last 15 to 20 years." He stressed that the Expository Writing Program is in need of a third tenure track position, "You need people who are specialists. Without the third position, there will be a lot of difficulty in terms of writing instruction."
The fate of the Expository Writing Program now lies in the hands of the EPPC and CFC as they begin to review requests from individual departments and rank them both in order of importance and need for tenure and temporary track positions within the department.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Expository Writing Wendy Hesford recently resigned after CFC decided on February 22 to reject EPPC's recommendation to add a third tenure track position in the Expository Writing Program. The addition of a tenure track position would have secured Hesford's present position.
The EPPC's recommendation was submitted to CFC for consideration before its regular review because Hesford was offered a position in Indiana University's English Department and her decision depended on whether she would receive the tenure track position at Oberlin or not.
CFC's decision disappointed many faculty members of the Expository Writing Program and the English Department as well. Students were also upset by the decision. Many took action by submitting a petition to Feinleib and organizing a group in the hopes of reversing the CFC's decision.
Leonard Podis, director of the Expository Writing Program, said, "[Hesford] was really popular with the students and effective with the students."
According to Podis, the Expository Writing Program is still hopeful that CFC will approve its request for a third tenure track position. He commented about the direction the Expository Writing Program is headed towards by saying, "Our real goal for the last few years has been to stabilize staffing so we could continue to do what we've been doing, which is mainly to provide courses for people who want to excel in their writing or need work in meeting the writing requirement."
Podis added, "We have various goals including continually seeking to involve the rest of the faculty with the program. Concerning long term curricular goals, we haven't been able to see past the problems of stable staffing arrangements. We want to be certain."
Pierce stressed the importance of having the Expository Writing Program in the English Department. He said, "I'm a great believer in writing across the curriculum. Within each department, writing should be taught and the program wants to go in that direction."
CFC has authorized the Expository Writing Program to advertise a one year temporary position to replace Hesford for next year. The job description has not been officially approved yet. Podis said, "It's in the works."
Students to fight CFC's EXWR tenure decision (3/1/96)
Expos. program needs third tenure track (3/8/96 - Letter to the Editor)
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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