More Lower-Division English Classes to Open
Department has had to turn students away due to lack of classes
October 27, 2005 9:12 PM
After talks of eliminating the Junior English Proficiency Essay Test (JEPET) and increasing the number of lower division classes, the English department is looking for ways to ensure students enroll in and complete their English composition requirement in order to graduate.
The administration said that SF State plans to use some of the money from the California State University (CSU) budget increase this semester to open more lower division English classes such as 114 and 214. This semester has already seen a 10 percent increase in the lower division classes. Given that more sections are planned to be opened in the upcoming semester, the department will need to find lecturers for the respective classes.
Associate professor Sugie Goen is in charge of distributing teaching assignments to composition lecuturers. She said that opening enough sections and finding lecturers for the upcoming semesters will not be an easy task.
"Right now the English department has had to turn students away despite opening more sections," said Goen. "In the following semesters it's going to be tough to both accommodate students and find enough qualified lecturers for the new sections."
Jim Kohn, chair of the English department, explained that every semester new lecturers are hired and that the new sections will be taught by a combination of returning and new teachers. Whether or not current lecturers are willing to take on more work is still in question.
"I am teaching five sections this semester and although I love to teach them, I feel I'm not as accessible to my students," said English lecturer Sarah Fidelibus. "Right now I'm at my limit and can't teach more sections, but even if I could, I wouldn't. The amount of essays to grade would just be too overwhelming."
Fidelibus candidly explained that, other than for her love of teaching, a big reason why she decided to take on five sections was to better her financial situation. She stated that there are about 70 lecturers in the English department and that she personally only knew of one that would be willing to teach more sections. The lecturer in question was not available for comment.
Lecturer Brian Strang has been teaching English courses at SF State for ten years and he too has a full schedule. He, like Fidelibus, related that taking on more sections would neither benefit him nor his students.
"Teaching and grading composition classes can be a lot of work," said Strang. "Teaching five sections means I have to grade over 100 hundred papers every times students submit their essays."
Strang said that in his opinion, it would be almost humanly impossible to take on more sections and still be able to give students their papers back in a timely fashion.
During the last year, faculty from different colleges at SF State have formed a Writing Task Force. The Writing Task Force has been working on a report that in the future may relieve some pressure from the English department in respect to finding enough teachers to fill any voids.
They oppose the JEPET and believe that there are other ways to strengthen undergraduates' English skills. Their report proposed an idea that would completely revolutionize the means a student could complete their composition requirement.
"What the (Writing) Task Force wants to do is incorporate a writing course for every respective major on campus," said Kohn. "The one question that I have though is what instructors are they are going to hire to teach these composition classes."
Strang agreed that that would be the biggest issue if the proposition of the Writing Task Force is implemented.
"It'll be hard to find a chemistry teacher who also has the credentials to teach a composition class," remarked Strang. "It's going to be interesting to see what ends up happening."
Both Strang and Fidelibus have a hard time understanding why the JEPET is so disliked by the Writing Task Force and most especially why it's so disliked by the students.
"I really don't get it," said Fidelibus. "It's not like it is the end of the world that you have to go and take a test. And if you fail, well then you just have to take one more English class. I actually think that students end up enjoying (414). To tell you the truth it's one of my favorite classes to teach."
No matter what, it will take some time for the JEPET to disappear into what may one day be referred to as the dark ages when the JEPET ruled the world of the English composition requirement. Some say that it may take three to five years.
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