Information Sheet # 64

May 1, 1992


Fulfilling the Writing Emphasis Requirements

Every year the Registrar, Dean Karns, provides the Writing Committee with data reporting how different groups of students are maneuvering themselves through the Writing Emphasis (WE) requirements. Since all of us, as teachers and/or advisors, are involved in the writing program, I thought it might be interesting and perhaps useful to reproduce some of the data on several classes, particularly concentrating on students who entered Coe as freshmen in 1987 and '88.

The most complete set of data comes from examining the history of those students who entered Coe as freshmen in the fall of '87 and graduated on schedule four year later. The chart below indicates the total number of WE credits the students had accumulated upon graduation. We keep in mind that for students entering Coe in'87, they needed to complete three WS courses plus the two core courses. A passing grade of D- or better would enable a course to be counted for WE credit.

Number of WE Credits Number of '91 Grads
3 7
4 12
5 12
6 14
7 12
8 19
9 15
10 9
11 4
12 4
13 4
14+ 2

Currently it is encouraging to discover that of these 114 students, 73% graduated with double the minimum number of required WE courses. These numbers provide an excellent testimony to the faculty's support of the writing program.

Effect of the "C" Requirement

One of the major changes in the Writing Emphasis program was the institution of the requirement beginning with the 1988 freshman class that students receive a grade of "C" or higher to earn WE credit for a course. [The "C" requirement was in Committee A's final curriculum report but was inadvertently overlooked when the 1988-88 catalog was published.] If we compare the 1988 freshman WE credit accumulations with the 1987 freshman records, we can gain some idea how this new guideline initially affected students.

Comparing the data on students who stayed at Coe for at least six terms, we find that 146 students from the 1987 freshman class acquired 136 WE course credits during their freshman year, an average of just under one credit per student. Of course, these students were also taking two core courses. In contrast, among the freshmen of the 1988 cohort who were still at Coe in the spring of 1991, the 134 students had accumulated 154 WE course credits. Although the standards were raised, students still acquired WE credits at a more successful rate than the previous year. One explanation for this favorable trend is the increase in the number of available WE courses.

The rising "popularity" of WE courses is even more dramatically evident in the following year's freshman class: the 156 freshmen who came to Coe in 1989 and stayed for two full years acquired 200 WE credits during their first two terms. Of those 156 students, 41 had completed their writing requirements at Coe by the end of their sophomore year (in 1989 the minimum number of required WE course credits had been increased to four because one core course had to be eliminated), and another 40 had completed three WE courses.

Writing Emphasis Courses: for Freshman or Seniors?

While the overall enrollment patents for WE courses indicate some remarkable successes with the college's writing-across-the-curriculum program, soft spots in the distribution of courses is still evident. One particular concern remains the difficulty in ensuring that freshman and sophomores have sufficient access to WE courses regardless of discipline. If we return to the 1987 freshman class, for example, we will discover that those 114 students who graduated from Coe acquiring only 116 WE credits in their freshman year but accumulated 254 WE credits their senior year.

While the majority of students are having no difficulties traversing the terrain of the writing curriculum, the shortage of WE courses for freshmen and sophomores may be putting some of our weaker students at risk. Among students who entered as freshmen in 1989, 29 of them has satisfactorily completed zero or one WE courses after their first two years at Coe. Of these 29 students, ten have CUM GPA's below 2.0 and another nine have GPA's below 2.5. The group has only one student with a GPA above 3.4. In contrast, among the 41 students of the 1989 cohort who had completed their Writing Emphasis requirement by the end of their sophomore year, only one student has a GPA below 2.35 and 15 have GPA's over 3.4.

* * * * *

Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. -Samuel Johnson

* * * * *

Wilt Speaks

As a graduate of Kansas State University, I should confess that I occasionally have difficulty appreciating the positive contributions which have been made to our civilization by the University of Kansas at Lawrence. But when one of KU's most illustrious alums speaks on the subject of writing, it would be ungracious not to listen carefully. So here, without further introduction, is an excerpt form an interview with Wilt Chamberlain (originally printed in Sports Illustrated) as he talks about writing his second autobiography, A View from Above.--RLM

SI: In A View from Above, you confess that you were not entirely satisfied with the hedonistic life-style you lived in the '80s. Why not?

WC: I had a home in Hawaii, homes in Vancouver and Los Angeles--all very idyllic spots. I was still active in sports. I played a lot of racquetball. I was doing things that kept my body pretty busy, but my mind was going to pot. If you're the type of person that enjoys accomplishing things, you find that kind of life extremely boring after a short time.

SI: And you didn't have to work?

WD: A celebrity can make money doing nothing these days. I was just vegetating in Hawaii.

SI: So 18 years after you wrote Wilt, with the assistance of David Shaw, you decided to do a book on your own.

WC: Right. And I tell you, it was a fantastic experience. It's therapeutic to put yourself down on paper. Writing is like looking into a mirror: You start to realize who you really are.

SI: Is it true that you wrote the entire book in longhand?

WC: Longhand, yeah. I can't type. I'd keep some paper with me, and as thoughts came, I'd write them down wherever I was. I'd get back home and transcribe them onto another piece of paper, because it's hard even for me to read my handwriting. My secretary would come over, and I'd read to him what I'd written. He'd record what I said on tape and transcribe it, and I'd look at that as if I were reading a book. Then I would correct it. It's a long process.

I think I may have a niche in writing. I never would've dreamed of this a few years ago--that I could sit down and write some things that people would really want to read, and have something to say that's worthwhile. Maybe I should write a column. The only think about a column is, it's regimentation.

SI: Deadlines?

WC: Yeah. That's why Wilt Chamberlain left basketball, because he was through with regimentation. Maybe if I would write, say 50 columns at one time.

SI: Writing a book affords you the opportunity to edit yourself. But, if anything, you're more outspoken in A View from Above than you are in person.

WC: I'll tell you why. It's because you write for yourself. When you write, you're still thinking it's a private matter between you and the pen, you understand? And you put these private matters down. Then, all of a sudden, someone else reads them.

Like with the ladies. The 20,000 ladies that caused all that furor. It was put down in context, to let people know about Wilt Chamberlain's life. Hey, I'm 30 years out on the road, as I say in the book. I only gave a number so that people would recognize what I meant by "many, many ladies." Like if I said, "I'm a basketball player and I scored a lot of points," you wouldn't have any idea that I scored 100 points in a single game or averaged 50 points for a season....

* * * * *

Writing does not belong inside on a warm spring day.--Lars Pearson


This website created and maintained by the Coe Writing Center. Copyright 2001.
Email Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.