Writing is not a solitary act. Rather, writing is a highly social process. Writing can be used to explore ideas, and it also can be used to grant or deny access to assorted communities--academic, professional, social, political, civic, and otherwise. To maintain just communities, writers must be flexible, reflective critical thinkers and readers of the texts that inscribe them.
As such, the Central Michigan Writing Center is dedicated to supporting, researching, and advocating for writers and the work of writing on campus and beyond. Writing Center consultants and faculty strive to offer a safe and inclusive environment for people to consider how they might engage more ably and more ethically as writers in the world.
We also work with writers on sentence-level and correctness issues to assist these writers in more fluidly making the transition into their communities of choice; at the same time, we value linguistic diversity and the identities embodied and enacted in that diversity and work with writers to make informed choices about the sorts of “code switching” necessary to successfully navigate the communities they choose.
The CMU Writing Center is guided by a several disciplinary “threshold concepts”* of writing in conceptualizing how we work with writers.
Writing is a Social and Rhetorical Act
Writing Speaks to Situations through Recognizable Forms
Writing Enacts and Creates Identities and Ideologies
All Writers Have More to Learn
Writing Is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity
Statement of Diversity and Inclusion
In 1974, the Executive Committee of the Conference on College Composition and Communication issued the Statement of Students' Right to Their Own Language, which has been reaffirmed in 2003 and in 2014. The accompanying resolution reads as follows:
We affirm the students' right to their own patterns and varieties of language -- the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans. A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.
We at the CMU Writing Center reaffirm this resolution, but also seek to extend it beyond language concerns. In short, we value the lived experiences of all student, faculty, and staff writers with whom we work. We train our consultants in the situated nature of language use and in sensitivity to the values and ideologies often implicitly embedded in language practices. And though we work with writers to make informed decisions about their writing in academic contexts, we do so while helping them to preserve and explore their own identities in relation to language.
Writing Central: The Writing Center at Central Michigan University
The Central Michigan University Writing Center (CMU WC) is founded on the philosophy that writing should be at the center of a college education. The CMU Center has been in existence since 1978, when the then “Lab,” under the auspices of the English Department, began providing one-to-one peer tutoring to ENG 100 students. In 1998, with funding from a CMU New Initiatives grant, the Center expanded its vision, its mission, and its services, offering assistance university-wide while continuing its involvement in the English Dept. writing curriculum. The Center has grown tremendously since 1998. It now includes two sites, staffed with approximately 40 to 50 writing consultants offering 450 to 550 service hours per week, and provides multiple services to the university community: on-site and online sessions, workshops, and faculty development (WAC-WID). Park Library 360 is the newest and most-centrally located site; the Anspach 154 Center is in the building that also houses the English Department and many of the writing and humanities classes. The Online Service primarily serves students in CMU’s large Global Campus programs and online courses.
Services are provided by paid and for-credit peer writing consultants, undergraduate and graduate, working 6 to 20 hours per week, including several graduate assistants. a director and associate director. The CMU Writing Center is funded by its dean and the provost, with an operating budget of approximately $100,000, excluding regular staff salaries and graduate assistant wages. Consultant wages, which start slightly above minimum wage, vary depending on status (graduate or undergraduate student) and on the length of time (training and experience) at the Center.
Education and supervision is an important part of the Center’s ability to provide quality services. All consultants take ENG 510, Writing Center Practicum, in their first semester of working at the Center, sometimes with a combination of for-credit and for-pay hours (e.g., ENG 510 requires 5 non-paid hours per week for working with students, plus discussion sessions, and assignments). On-going training continues through staff meetings and as needed for individual consultants throughout the year.
Center services include one-to-one consulting, on-site and online, for-credit classes, workshops, and outreach. One-to-one consulting resulted in close to 14,000 sessions in 2017-18. The online service is offered to students in ENG 101, first-year writing, and to students in CMU Global Campus programs (national and international). In addition, the Center offers three one-credit writing classes: ENG 193, Writing Workshop, is a required, one-hour companion to ENG 103, an alternate first year writing competency course. ENG 299, Writing Workshop II, provides support similar to that of ENG 193 to students in any other university class and is offered in both on-site and online formats. ELI 099 is designed specifically for international students who are enrolled in language learning classes in CMU’s English Language Institute. Classroom sessions and workshops include orientations to college writing and to the Center, peer-editing, model genre critiques, research writing workshops, etc., and faculty development for writing-across-the curriculum / in-the-disciplines and collaborates regularly with other CMU groups and initiatives such as the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the Writing Intensive program. The Center has also been able to do some outreach to the university and surrounding community: editing and publishing an annual first-year writing student publication (Carved Marks), providing training and development support for area high schools, working with writing in K-12, offering writing sessions at Make-A-Difference Day, providing writing workshops during various summer camps and programs.
The Center is affiliated with and supports a registered student organization, the Writing Circle. This student organization invites all university students to participate in activities that support writing and teaching writing, and it allows members to apply for student funds to support on-campus activities and conference travel.
During the academic year, the Center is open nearly 100 hours per week between the two sites: Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The online service operates continuously during the year (24/7, excluding major holidays, with a 2-day turn-around time for submitted papers). The on-campus Center is also open in summer, depending on need and staff availability.
The Center works with writers throughout the CMU community: graduate and undergraduate students from a wide variety of courses and instructors (nearly 300 different courses in 2018-19), native and non-native English speakers, and staff and faculty who want feedback on their writing. Our records show an interesting three-part distribution of usage. In 2018-19, permanent weekly appointments accounted for slightly less than a third of the sessions; the online service represented another third, and the university-wide on-site service was the largest portion with almost 7,000 sessions, provided to on-campus students, faculty, and staff. Such usage patterns, which include both younger, novice and older, more expert writers, fits the Center’s philosophy: that writing is essential to a college education and requires on-going support throughout university careers and beyond.