Vassar College prides itself on the liberal arts education it offers its students; an important aspect of this education is developing and refining writing skills. This importance is emphasized during the first-year experience as all students are required to complete a freshman writing seminar.
One of Vassar’s few requirements, the seminar allows the opportunity for students to hone their writing skills in preparation for writing in various academic disciplines. While some might take their writing ability for granted, not all students on campus matriculate with the same level of English-language writing skills, creating a difficult writing process for students whose native language is not English.
Currently, the College lacks what we at The Miscellany News see as necessary and fundamental resources for English Language Learners (ELL) on campus. The ELL students, are then left to their own devices when writing papers for class, and often they have to rely on the Writing Center Consultants for help. While we understand that the College encourages its students to consult with the Writing Center for any academic paper needs, and is open to helping all students at any stage of the writing process—from organizing their thoughts to editing a draft—the Writing Center workers are not specifically trained for this type of instruction and support ELL students need.
Further, The Miscellany News reported in the fall of 2012 that writing consultants are only able to provide help in the form of proofreading and editing, not grammar instruction, copy-editing or the basics of English-language writing (“VC lacks writing support for ELL students,” 11.29.12).
We at The Miscellany News strongly believe Vassar needs to provide a much needed form of ELL support on campus for students who require this resource. This could be done through the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity.
According to the statement on their website, “Vassar College is committed to providing an accessible and inclusive learning and living environment for students with learning differences”; The College, then, should be able to provide a certified ELL instructor or tutor for all students who wish to improve their English writing skills, as this clearly falls under the umbrella of learning differences.
If the College is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible learning environment, then students should be able to find resources on campus instead of having to seek help from outside sources like private tutoring services.
Last semester, The Miscellany News published an article discussing the usage of off-campus tutors by students on campus (“Editing services technically allowed, stifle creativity,” 11.6.13).
While the services are technically allowed by the College, they still do not provide the necessary support needed for ELL students who are writing papers for class. In fact, students should not be put into a situation where outside editing services are necessary. These sources fail to enhance the type of dialogue the College strives to achieve every year, and as a result students on campus fail to reach their full potential and grow into the writers they can become.
Ultimately, we at The Miscellany News feel this important resource has been lacking for quite some time, and it’s an area that the College cannot continue to neglect.
All students should be provided proper resources to help bolster their academic abilities. If the College wishes to foster a strong academic atmosphere, one that helps all students strengthen their weaknesses, an ELL tutor would be a step in the right direction.
—Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.