To the Editors of The Crimson:
"May Resign. "! Who? (In the morning's drowsiness I'd perhaps hoped for bigger game.) "Mrs. Slingerland, assistant director of ..."
Well, the "post" she may resign was probably a "shaft" to start with, for it seems she has been fairly powerless all along. Perhaps that's why a threat to resign is so nearly-pathetic. (As an Expos. instructor, I worry that I can't quite find the single word that would sum up just how nearly-pathetic; but "anyone", as the Rev. Berryman puts it, "can teach Expository Writing." Just as anyone perhaps can be assistant director of whatever, provided the right person gives the nod.)
Can one imagine any other "ideas of resigning" crossing some minds that might create more such tremors in the news? "Prof. Heimert May Resign As Dept. Head"? "Bok Wonders If It's Worth It"? "Rosovsky Rues..."? "Buildings and Grounds Chief Quits--Not Enough Lawn Mowers"? ("The last straw" he claims.)
The point here is not to abuse assistant directors at all, whose frustrations seem to me quite real. And though there's been a fair share of solemnizing lately about "scandals" on the one hand and "wise and ethical use of influence" on the other, the point is not even to suggest a due sense of proportion.
The points are many:
1. If Expos. is to be looked on as Remedial Writing, then I can think of several students I've had who should certainly be released from it. But I do agree that most freshmen could profit from a good course in writing. SAT scores are no guarantee at all that a student writes well as far as I can see, and I've been teaching a middle group section all year.
2. But Expos. now--top-heavy with Directors, Assistant Directors, Head and Assistant Head Sectionmen--tries to operate on the hysterical notion that a half-year course in Writing has got to Do The Job, or else. For apparently the course was severely scrutinized last year when senior faculty complained that Harvard undergraduates could no longer write well. So beef up Expos...
An alternative to putting the screws to Expos. might better be for the senior faculty to change the nature of its writing requirements overall: to de-emphasize those longish, woolly "Term Papers" (written mostly all in heap during what we call Reading Period) and assign shorter, more frequent, experimental writing throughout the year. Furthermore, those same lamenting senior faculty might spend more time than they now apparently do in reading student papers themselves.
3. To make it more possible than it now is for section people in Expos. to reproduce student writing for classroom discussion, it might be better to eliminate one or two bureaucrats at the top in any case and hire more secretaries, or else use the money now spent on Directors, sub-Directors, etc. for a Xerox fund for all section people.
4. It was curious to note Prof. Evans mincing over treating students "mathematically". When the proposal for re-structuring Expos. for next year (the proposal to standardize the so-called "lower level" sections) was made, the people who actually do the teaching were not consulted or considered, "mathematically" or otherwise. It's difficult to worry about the morale of the Assistant Director, then, when the concerns of the most actively engaged staffers were so officiously discounted.
5. And standardization--of texts and assignments--will be no answer anyway unless the structuring and presentation of writing assignments is done with some ingenuity. If there's someone in a position to flex his influence sagaciously, he should certainly put (if necessary) a tyrannically gifted teacher of writing in command of Expos. Evans, a very respected scholar, does not teach in the course, as far as I know. Slingerland (who does) is, as far as I know, just another graduate student working on a thesis like many of the rest of us. Whoever appointed her to such a time-consuming job. (and there has been mystery over that point) is perhaps most to blame, then. For she should be getting on with her own work and out of graduate school as many of us should. Jerald Reneau Tutor in English at Winthrop House
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