New English graduation requirements in the works
May 2, 2008 1:28 PM
After deciding last fall to discontinue the Junior English Proficiency Essay Test, or JEPET, the Academic Senate has begun to develop criteria for a new set of English graduation requirements.
The University Committee on Written English Proficiency (CWEP) is in charge of establishing the new set of Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) that will be put into place starting with the freshman class of Fall 2008.
The new proposed requirements would require students to take an upper division English course designed for their specific major instead of taking the more general English 414 and JEPET that is now required.
CWEP held a writing colloquium late January to begin the process of replacing previous graduation requirements. Over 80 faculty members from nearly 50 departments on campus attended the meeting. The colloquium brought up several key points that the new requirements should follow, such as class sizes, types of assignments and the number of units each course should be worth.
Among these new criteria, the committee felt that the class sizes should not exceed 20 students, and would actually prefer that number be decreased to 15 students. CWEP stated in its proposal that “at least 60 percent of the grade in GWAR courses is based on written assignments that are evaluated for both content and quality of writing.”
During an Academic Senate meeting two weeks ago, Arabic studies professor Mohammad Salama expressed his frustration with the English classes currently offered.
“When our students graduate from this school, they aren’t taken seriously because they cannot write,” he said.
The proposal mentions that the GWAR courses will be a “key upper-division introduction to the major,” but with English 214 classes being cut, it is unknown how students will be able to take this class within the anticipated timeframe.
Marissa Blodnik, an international relations major who has already completed the JEPET, said, “It was a waste of time and a lot of people don’t pass it.”
She said she would rather take a grammar workshop or writing classes instead of the JEPET if the university felt its students weren’t at the ideal upper-division English level.
“I think it’s good that there are requirements, but a class would be more helpful than a test,” she said.
At least five professors, including Patricia Irvine, an associate professor in the College of Education, said they would like to rid SF State of the JEPET and its companion, English 414, because they feel the current graduating students are not meeting the standards set by other California State Universities, University of California and universities nationwide.
Once the new requirements are in place they will not affect any students until fall 2010 when the fall 2008 freshmen have reached upper-division standing. During those years, CWEP would tweak any issues that might arise so when 2010 arrives these courses will be in place for students.
“It’s going to be really important if we adopt this that all the little loopholes are worked out,” lecturer Josh Levine of the Music Department said.
While most of the faculty feels this change is essential to SF State student’s education, University Provost and President of Academic Affairs John Gemello said the university currently does not have the resources for such an academic overhaul.
“I believe this program will be a substantial improvement,” Gemello said. “But I hope that we won’t vote on this until we can figure out the necessary resources.”
Monique Marchand, a 21-year-old business administration major, who is scheduled to take the JEPET next month, thinks the test is a good idea so you can test out of English 414, but isn’t sure if a test is the best long-term solution.
“I don’t understand if the test is really working or if it’s just a scam from the university to get more money from the students,” she said.
CWEP recognizes the CSU’s budget is constantly in flux. And some professors have said SF State does not have the funds necessary to find teachers with these skills or to train them to teach English specifically to each major.
“In most places an existing course will be modified to a central course for the major and they could be easily adapted,” said Dr. Bob Cherny, history professor and former Academic Senate Chair.
“It’s always up to the administration to find the resources,” he said.
Not all students are excited for replacement of the JEPET.
Christina Russo, a 21-year-old psychology major, said, “ The JEPET only took an hour. Why would you want to take a whole class instead?”
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