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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Letter in Response to “Writing Proficiency Exam Criticized by Students”

This article is written in response to a Mass Media news article posted on  February 9, 2013, written by Caleb Nelson titled “Writing Proficiency Exam Criticized by Students”. The original article chronicled the dissatisfaction of students with the Writing Proficiency Exam.  
I recently came across a news piece, “Writing Proficiency Exam [WEP] Criticized by Students” authored by Caleb Nelson in the February 12-25 issue of the Mass Media. This piece features students giving an unfair denunciation of WEP, arguing outrageously that it is an “inadequate and unnecessary waste of time.” I would love to go over some arguments and complaints directed at WEP, as this is an important issue for UMass Boston community members, especially for students who have not taken it yet.
WEP is a graduation requirement for students in the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Science and Mathematics. It is designed to evaluate students’ critical thinking and reading skills. There are two ways of taking the test, with the student having the option of sitting for a timed-essay examination or submitting a portfolio of his writing.
Nevertheless, like for many other exams, when students do not pass on their first try they get wild and angry. They protest and blame people. This is understandable. Their anger is a defense mechanism to protect them against sadness of failing. It is nothing strange or new to have students criticized and complain about the WEP. That being said, the claim that “WPE has been met with complaints from students […]since it was implemented in 1979,” means nothing in terms of solid arguments.
Complaints against the WEP are emotional reactions. Therefore, they are flawed. Not only because the students fail to propose solutions, but also because the WEP provides numerous measures to ensure the success of students at the time they are taking the exams.
Measures ranging from tutoring, to workshops and to personal support, you name it. Not to mention WEP gives students, who are doing the portfolio, five weeks or 35 days to complete just a five pages essay. This is a hell of time to revise it and even have a faculty member review it before the submission
It is reported in the article that  “Alex Wilson, the president of the Anthropology Club, is highly literate;” which suggests how can he fail? I will ignore this claim. It is rather highly laughable than sound. Indeed the level of literacy is like a profound river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.
So I doubt a literate dude will email The Mass Media, begging for attention after failing a five page paper for which he had 35 days to write. Although I might not know how people measure the level of literacy, but I do know that it is something that must be shown, not  told.
The article went on to quote Lindie Ngobeni, a student majoring in environmental science, who finds WEP “insulting,” and questions it. “‘What does the WPE say about the English 101 and 102 classes?’” This banal argument reflects several levels of ignorance about WEP; the first mistake is that WEP is different from 101 and 102 English classes; one is an exam and the others are classes. The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, “If our professor covers all the materials in class, why are we still taking exam?” Please, just be respectful to UMass Boston.
I speak English not even as a second, but as a third language. I took the WEP last March and I passed it on my first try. I am a winner! And you know what? “Winners always make thing happen, losers let things happen.” So I think when it comes to WEP my fellow students need to become more responsible. Life is a do-it-myself project. You should take the credit or the blame for your performance.