I know the ink has barely dried on my last blog post (metaphorically, of course—it just sounds so much nicer than “the content has barely been uploaded”), but I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on mandatory sessions after our all-too-brief discussion tonight. We’ve all had sessions where the student clearly doesn’t want to be there, and I know I’ve wished sometimes that only students who are bursting with enthusiasm and think the Writing Center is the best part about SNC would visit us. Still, when I compare the pros and cons of mandatory sessions, I can’t help but realize that these required appointments, though they don’t tend to be the most enjoyable sessions, may very well be the most valuable.
True, some students who are required to visit the Writing Center spend the session shrugging their shoulders and insisting that they don’t need any help, but it’s also true that some of these students show up at the front desk another day—and of their own accord. We have the opportunity to change students’ attitudes towards the Writing Center and towards writing in general. At the very least, we can correct any false assumptions or misinformation that they may have about us.
When professors require students to visit the Writing Center, they give us the opportunity to work with students who may not have otherwise scheduled appointments with us. This does include students who either don’t know or don’t care about the Writing Center. However, it also includes students who may have a positive attitude towards the Writing Center, but would not otherwise take the time to visit. I personally am part of this group at times, as I confessed in my post about procrastination—I’m living proof that someone might think the Writing Center is fantastic but schedule appointments less often than she should!
All things considered, I think there is enough value to mandatory appointments to make up for the challenges we face as tutors during these sessions. That being said, I think there are reasonable limits to how often professors should assign mandatory Writing Center visits. I don’t think it would be a good idea for all professors to start requiring sessions for each and every writing assignment all at once, since we wouldn’t be able to increase our budget—and therefore our staff—fast enough to keep up with the increased traffic, which would result in students who don’t need a great deal of help (or who resist our help) taking time away from others.
I think it would be ideal if each professor who teaches an introductory level course or a general education course required his or her students to visit the Writing Center once or twice early in the semester. This way, we could provide the training students need as they learn how to write in an unfamiliar discipline, and new students would become aware of the Writing Center and what we have to offer. After these initial required sessions, they may decide to return voluntarily as they work on other assignments. Mandatory sessions may be challenging at times, but they might be the key to our continued existence and success.
How would you evaluate the merit (or lack thereof) of required Writing Center visits? In general, are they a good idea, a bad idea, or relatively neutral? Should professors limit the number of times they require students to visit the Writing Center per course, or is it valuable for professors to require visits for multiple—even all—writing assignments? What else should we be considering as we evaluate mandatory sessions?