December 5, 2007


i had a tough one today.

a client came in with a paper in which they read different articles and picked one to agree with, and argued why that viewpoint was legitimate and the others weren't. so this client came in with articles about torture of terrorism suspects. before i read through their paper, they made it very clear that they were concerned with their personal viewpoint coming across in the paper. so keeping an open mind, i dove find some really awful stuff. regardless of what their opinion was on the subject, i have a strong personal opinion on the subject as well, and i found what they had to say offensive. they basically picked the most extreme article of the three which stated that torture should be completely legal in the questioning of terrorism suspects. there were specifics in the paper that referred to torture being necessary on people even possibly connected to terrorism, regardless of solid proof of their guilt being available or not. the argument was that these people might be holding valuable information that will save many many american lives, and if it turns out that they were in fact innocent, then the outcome is better than the possibility of american lives being lost. while they have a right to have this opinion, by all means, this made me kind of sick.

the worst part was there were instances where their sentence structure and the content were very closely connected. to be completely honest with you, i half-assed this one, because i just didn't want to look at it anymore. i was afraid of telling this kid exactly why his viewpoint wasn't legitimate, not based on my opinion, but based on the fact that his arguments weren't stable. he also made clear very early in his paper that he would not refer to any of the events that were discussed in the articles. i think perhaps he should have; torture is not a subject to be taken so lightly, and maybe if he had taken the time to think about some of the things occuring, his viewpoint wouldn't have been so extremely in favor of it. the absolute worst part was where he mentioned that it is so important to torture suspects to get the information quickly, that the government should create an online system that allowed a judge of whether the suspect should be tortured or not to immediately give a decision, "to eliminate unnecessary paperwork".

i was worried about this one mostly because the line between my personal opinion and the structure of the arguments was starting to blur. so i focused on the other things he needed help with, which was reducing the length of his paragraphs (some were more than a page long). i told him he could split up paragraphs when a new train of thought is introduced, even if he is still writing on the same subject, and i also told him that paragraphs don't need to be at a certain length; some paragraphs are two sentences long and some are much longer, just based on the content and how he wanted to present it. immediately after, he went through his paragraphs and found where they looked like they would be an appropriate length. at that point, i was REALLY done with this. i knew that i would eventually come across a paper with a strong viewpoint different than my own, but i didn't realize that sometimes the argument and the opinions are very closely related, and you can't question one without questioning the other.

i hated it. i'm glad it's over.


November 25, 2007

well, this is on the other blog too, but i'm JUST THAT MAD!

i also changed my emoticon to a more angry and outraged one, because the other blog was reading it as html and screwing up my post!

this evening, someone i know who is aware that i work in the writing center called me. she had to get my number from someone else, which shows how well we know each other...anyway, she told me that she was supposed to write an essay, due tomorrow morning at 8am, and just realized that at the bottom of the assignment they were asked to visit the writing center. so her request was that she e-mail me her paper and i look over it and let her know how it was. the first thing i thought was, "...there's so many things wrong with that." and just because i can, i'm going to list them for you, although i'm sure you already picked them out.

1.) why should i do work when i'm not actually working?
2.) you can't just E-MAIL me stuff, that's not even collaborative!
3.) WHO is your professor!!

i asked who her professor was, but apparently she likes them. she wouldn't tell me their name. i basically told her that if she wanted to she could come by tomorrow, or perhaps ask her prof for an extension so she could get in an appointment (although i don't know what kind of luck she'll have, i haven't checked the schedule). and i guess that's what she will do.

but SRSLY, the nerve!!


i mean, can we even do that??? i think the answer would be a resounding NO. i just don't think it's right to ask someone to consult on their personal time, even though i wouldn't call that "consulting," i would call it, "cheap cop-out on doing real work by getting your friend-no, ACQUAINTANCE-who happens to work in the writing center to do it for you".


September 27, 2007

What the world needs now is... personal space?

Maggie and I were discussing this today and I thought some class input would be helpful. How close is too close when it comes to relationships with our consultees? For instance, what if they facebook friend you? Are there any good stories about consultees pushing the tutor-tutee relationship too far into the personal zone?

At least I'm doing better than NWA

I no longer feel like a failure at work or life in general. I just wanted to share with the world that as of today, I have TWO frequent fliers. How do you like them apples, Northwest?

September 26, 2007

Wonderful things to hear from students

One thing you all haven't seen yet is the feedback we receive from students about our consulting practice though our online surveys. It's heartening to me to hear the voices of these students, who often express appreciation for what we do in wonderful, smart ways. Thanks to Katie for sharing this lovely comment from a recent student (and huge thanks to Emily H, who received this comment and gave me permission to share with you all):

"My consultant was very helpful in all respects she even helped me expand ideas I had about my topic and was very helpful in giving me great direction without writing or giving me anything. She helped expand my ideas through asking interesting questions."

I was struck by how much this comment resonated with our discussions of Brooks, North, and Harris. Doesn't it express the ideal of Socratic questioning and minimalist tutoring? I recognize, as we discussed, that such methods don't always work, but when they do... geez, how cool.

September 23, 2007


Okay guys (other than Miranda), I have a question that has to do with writing center "code." We've had some discussions about proofreading code, of our student's privacy code and even about proper dress code, but after two minor but embarassing incidents in Nicholson and Appleby, I need to clarify the speaking code.

Last Friday, Miranda and I were chatting a bit as we both got to the end of our shifts in Appleby, on a relatively quiet day. One consultant was working with a student, and they were both silently reading parts of a paper, so Miranda and I began to gush over how interesting our theory class is, how we feel a little iffy about the Blog (it's still cool, though!), how some people in our class are incredibly skilled at thinking outloud with perfect syntax and grammar maintained, and how Kirsten is able to command a group of talkers like us with the most buoyant of personalities. Amidst this really great conversation, we were suddenly stopped by a co-worker who shall remain nameless, who asked us if we were having a consultation - which we weren't - and then proceeded to tell us that we were being much too loud and were certainly distracting anyone who was there for help. My face flushed, and we both apologized, and then doggedly finished our talk. I felt like such a poor representation of the center - but at the same time, I felt so sad that our talk had been really relevant and invested in our jobs!

And the previous week, I was checking in with Sharkey at the front desk, where he was telling me about my scheduled appointment for the day when an irate computer lab user came up to us, pointed to the "no-cell policy" and informed us that if we didn't allow phone conversations, we shouldn't allow talking either, "because some people are trying to work around here." I know I don't handle criticism well, but I am starting to feel like I am one of those kids that gets repeatedly sent to the principals office!

Is this conflict between maintaining a work space within the rather casual, friendly environment we are trying to set up in class and meetings presenting a problem to anyone else? Should I bring a piece of tape with me to my next shift?

shamefully yours,