Hoy-Marius Debate Got Personal

The arrival of Pat C. Hoy II as senior preceptor in fall 1989 also heightened tension at Expos.

Hoy was an advocate for the use of autobiographical evidence in essays, and his job was to help in the training of teachers. Hoy says the program's hierarchy made it impossible to do his job fully, and this spring he left in frustration for New York University.

Hoy, a longtime army colonel, clashed with those who thought writing in Expos should be a strictly academic discipline without autobiographical evidence. And some teachers felt him to be gruff and too dogmatic.

"This has been a strangely divisive debate," says Gordon Harvey, who has replaced Hoy as senior preceptor, of the argument over autobiographical evidence in essays.

Marius was initially a supporter of Hoy's ideas. But soon after the senior preceptor's arrival, teachers say, Marius switched his position on the value of personal evidence to oppose Hoy. "Autobiograhical writing demeans our profession," Marius wrote recently in an article published in the book Redrawing the Boundaries. "While our colleagues in history, literature and the other liberal arts are asking for writing about the world out there, we often look like a crowd of amateur therapists delivering dime-store psychology to adolescents."

The battle over personal evidence soon became a war of personalities, and sources say that for most of the past academic year, Hoy and Marius weren't talking to one another. Hoy says the program needs to get teachers more involved in decision making. "I think it requires a change of attitude at the top of the program about who is to be included in the evolution of the program," he says.

The lesson Marius took from the Hoy issue, teachers say, was to avoid hiring people who might be threatening to him. One example of this tendency is in Expos 52, an upper-level course Marius helps teach. When award-winning teachers Sven Birkerts and Alexandra Johnson left Expos 52, Marius replaced them with a group of hardworking, if less talented and experienced, teachers.

Sources recalled a recent interview of one candidate, a novelist, for a job with Expos last year. Before the interview, Marius worried aloud about whether the prospective teacher's most recent book was longer than his own last book. During the interview, the director of Expository Writing told the candidate, "If you take out these indexes in your book, my last book is longer."