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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Writing Proficiency Requirement is irrelevant and should be scrapped

University of Massachusetts Boston students are busy — busy working toward degrees in higher education and busy working to pay their bills and support their families. UMass Boston students are not your run of the mill college students nationally, an average 95 percent of freshmen and 67 percent of seniors are 23 or younger. At UMass Boston, 72 percent of freshmen and 32 percent of seniors are 23 or younger.

UMass Boston students are also dedicated. According to UMass Boston’s Office of Institutional Research and Policy Studies, out of 16,277 UMass Boston undergraduate students enrolled in Fall 2013, the average GPA was 3.0. That’s quite impressive, considering their busy, working-class lifestyles: a national average of 13 percent of freshmen and 30 percent of seniors work more than 20 hours per week at an off-campus job. The numbers jump to 45 percent for UMass Boston freshmen and 52 percent for UMass Boston seniors.

What is even more impressive is that 25 percent of the undergrad students in Fall 2013 had a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

So, when I learned of the Writing Proficiency Requirement here at UMass Boston I was a bit perplexed.

According to UMass Boston’s website, “The Writing Proficiency Requirement (WPR) measures your ability to evaluate different points of view, read critically and write analytically.”

That’s all well and good, but don’t our professors do that?

A full-time undergraduate senior taking on 15 credits myself, I also work an average of 34 hours a week. I am 25 years old and my GPA is over 3.5. I commute to campus 3 days a week and I typically drive frantically home after class to spit out some homework, eat, change, and run to work just a couple hours later. Statistically, I am an average UMass Boston student.

I am in a constant state of frenzy trying to keep up with it all, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. That’s why when UMass Boston emails me reminders about the WPR I think, “What the [expletive]?”

To graduate from UMass Boston you must either complete the Writing Proficiency portfolio or take a timed exam. The portfolio consists of two parts: at least 15 pages’ worth of essays you’ve already written and have been graded on in courses taken at the university, and then a new essay of at least five pages in response to a set of readings provided by the WPE office. The guidelines to the former part of the portfolio are as varied as they are tedious, and when you consider the fact that these papers have already been graded and approved or disapproved of by university accredited professors, the WPR portfolio seems unnecessarily redundant.

The timed exam is almost as ridiculous as the portfolio, but it is at least a bit more straightforward. You are given in advance a set of readings and then you are to show up on the same day and time as 300 or more other miserably inconvenienced students, sit elbow to elbow with them for three hours, and use the same little blue composition notebooks that you practiced cursive with in elementary school to write a structurally sound and grammatically correct essay in response to questions presented to you.

But why?

What could this added stressor possibly do to teach us anything we haven’t already learned through our courses here at UMass Boston? What benefits could we possibly get out of this unnecessary and time-consuming requirement?

The UMass Boston website answers as follows: “The purpose of the Writing Proficiency Requirement is to help you be better prepared for academic work in advanced courses where you will be expected to apply these essential communication skills.”

I am an A-B student with a 3.78 GPA and have made the Dean’s List since I transferred here last fall. I have taken this exam once and failed, along with many of my peers. Is it because I am incapable of analyzing text, or because my reading comprehension skills are lacking? Unless every single one of the teachers and professors who have taught and graded my writing skills are as incompetent as I am, I think not.

Instead, I think the system that has instated the WPR is incompetent. Furthermore, I think they are wasting my and my fellow students’ time — time that is precious. The whole thing is insulting and downright egregious. The WPR is as irrelevant as the cursive lessons I was taught in elementary school and it should be abolished so that the already overworked students of UMass Boston can focus their limited time and energy on the thing that really matters: the education that they’re working their asses off to pay for.