By Justin Sweitzer
The recent directive given to the KU English department to cut a base course from their composition program has faculty members concerned over the cut’s effect, as they believe it will be detrimental to students most in need of composition training.
ENG 022: Introduction to College Composition will not be offered in the fall 2017 semester following a directive not to feature the course from administration.
According to English Department Chair Andy Vogel, the directive was given without any explanation as to why the course was being removed from offered courses in the upcoming fall semester.
Vogel said ENG 022 was implemented to fill the void left by the loss of developmental English and ENG 24, the removals of which eliminated two prominent courses from the composition program. The course, Vogel said, is crucial to building foundational composition skills that many students come to KU without.
“Some students would come in and weren’t students who needed developmental English, but they don’t feel entirely confident as writers for the college-level demands,” Vogel said. “[ENG 022] is close reading, responding to writings and thinking about writer, audience, purpose, rhetorical situation and kairos. These kind of foundation skills, if they don’t get emphasized, can really cause people to struggle.”
A study conducted by the English department shows that students who took ENG 022 had a higher chance of receiving an A or B in ENG 023 than students who didn’t take ENG 022. Though, the same study also showed that the drop, fail, withdraw, incomplete (DFWI) rates for ENG 022 among students who both took and those who did not take ENG 022 were roughly the same.
That fact was a critical sticking point for Dean of College of Liberal Arts & Sciences David Beougher.
“The success rate is the same,” Beougher said, referring to students who did and didn’t take the course.
He noted that the English department’s pilot study on the ENG 022 “suggests there wasn’t a significant impact.”
Beougher said he told Vogel that he wanted further assessment information on ENG 022 in order to continue offering it, but said the English department never provided that information.
He said because he was never given this information, he has no evidence that ENG 022 “helps students significantly increase success.”
English department professors believe that the student demand for the course alone should have been enough to keep the course for the fall 2017 semester.
Kevin Mahoney, composition professor at KU, believes the decision to not offer ENG 022 will lead to complications with ENG 023, as students will be less prepared to take that required course.
“We’re going to see a drop in academic performance. There’s no way around it,” he said.
They are choosing to do this because they want to do well. Those students will now “sink or swim.”
Janice Chernekoff, former chair of the English department at KU, implemented the directed self-placement sessions at KU CONNECTIONS, which allowed students to choose what level of composition they felt best suited their skill level.
Chernekoff said students who took both ENG 022 and ENG 023 had double the time to pick up on foundational skills taught in both courses, including research writing, critical thinking and critical reading.
“I think it’s a mistake,” said Chernekoff. “To take that away from people who need it, it’s going to be a problem.”
Both professors in the English department and Beougher noted that most universities offer a two-track composition sequence. English professors argue that ENG 022 offers the closest thing to such a sequence at KU, but Beougher noted that when KU did have a two-course composition sequence ENG 022 was not a part of it.
Vogel was understanding of the “resource-constrained” environment that the university currently finds itself in, but voiced his concern over the department’s inability to fulfill student needs following the directive not to offer the course.
“Speaking for myself,” he said, “When I look at it and see such large demand, I’m concerned that students think they need it, see themselves as needing it and if we’re not providing that opportunity, that’s a disservice.”