Reporter's Notebook

From the Files of Expos

The Crimson's six-week investigation of the Expository Writing program turned up a lot of stories. And for reasons of space, not every one could be included.

Many of the stories involved Director of Expository Writing Richard C. Marius and his penchant for unpredictability in hiring and firing. Marius, former Expos teachers told The Crimson, would often hire writers as Expos teachers after meeting them at cocktail parties. Marius ran across one teacher-to-be at the baggage claim of San Francisco International Airport, former teachers say.

But one of the best stories about Marius's hiring practices involved the experience of Karen Wesel.

Wesel was a fifth grade teacher in Homer, Alaska, when she met Marius at the Breadloaf summer conference for teachers of writing at Middlebury College in Vermont in 1982. Wesel says Marius offered her a job that summer less than an hour after meeting her.


Paul Cubeta, the director of the Breadloaf program then, says Marius' decision to hire Wesel on the spot was unusual. It was even stranger when one considers that Marius did not ask Cubeta for Wesel's resume or references, which Cubeta had on hand.

The hiring was also unusual because Wesel wasn't a published writer and hadn't taught college. Marius, who used to ride his bicycle to the summer conference, says he hired Wesel on the advice of his wife.

Wesel eventually accepted Marius' offer and came to Cambridge to teach during the 1985-86 school year. She received extremely high student evaluations, sources say, and was popular with other teachers.

But almost as soon as she came, Marius soured on Wesel. And despite the student evaluations, she was not rehired for the following year, and returned to teaching school in Homer, Alaska.

From the Teachers of Expos

One of the toughest parts about interviewing people who write for a living is that they think they know more than you do about the subject. With the Expos investigation, The Crimson had to talk to 71 such people.

Interview subjects repeatedly tried to fix the grammar in their quotes. There were at least a dozen offers to edit The Crimson's prose before it went into print (all, as Crimson policy requires, were politely refused).

And while reaction among teachers to the series was almost uniformly positive, there were several angry phone calls about the first story's grammar.

Chief among the criticisms was the choice of the word "trenchant" to describe widespread personnel problems in Expos. Teachers said the word was imprecise and didn't really mean anything in the context of describing personnel problems. So we checked the Oxford English dictionary:

Trenchant: "1. Cutting, adapted for cutting... 2. Incisive, vigorous and clear... 3. Sharply, defined or outlined."