Peer Tutoring Hours
Drop-in peer tutoring is available Sundays through Thursdays, 4-10 pm.
Peer tutoring will be available this semester through the last day of classes, Wednesday, Dec. 9.
On Writing and Social Media:
A Message from the Director
The Writing Center stands in defense of the widest possible range of free speech that is compatible with any plausible conception of human decency and with the basic security of all. But I would like to express my revulsion at recent comments made on Yik Yak, which fall beyond the pale of any defensible form of speech, and which confront members of our community with disgraceful thoughts and images that cause unwarranted pain. As director of the Writing Center, and as a human being, I condemn racist hatred and thoughtless cruelty of this sort as among the worst of all forms of human communication.
With this in mind, I also encourage all members of our community to think not only about what they write, but also about where they write. Sites like Yik Yak, Twitter, and Facebook claim to be “social media” sites that facilitate friendship and community. Many of us accept and repeat these claims, but I believe them to be deeply inaccurate. At their best, these sites structure friendship, community, and social commentary in order to monetize them, and in ways that subvert the fundamental goods intrinsic to them. At their worst, these sites also indifferently monetize cruelty, ignorance, and in the case of Yik Yak, cowardly anonymous hatred or trolling.
These are not accidental results of companies with otherwise admirable goals, whatever their public relations agents might say. They constitute an unstated business plan. Few comments generate more traffic on Yik Yak than those that express racial hatred, and before our eyes, the site is building its public presence on this sort of commentary. People not only have to access the site to find out what is going on, but also have to participate in order to get those offensive comments removed (by way of accumulating negative ratings). These are business strategies, not moral commitments. I ask members of our community to think very carefully about whether communicating under these conditions is compatible with anything of genuine human value. Many of us have grown dependent on these sites, but we can just as easily aspire to independence of them.
Director, Writing Center
About the Writing Center
Why is writing so difficult? There are probably as many reasons as there are authors, but one of the biggest is that it is impossible to write clearly about an idea until you have had it clearly, and that itself can be extraordinarily difficult. Our best and deepest thoughts arrive from a thousand directions and often in surprising moments, and they don’t work very hard to keep themselves in line. Some may even arrive as wordless feelings or intuitions that language seems sorely inadequate to capture. Once we start herding these mental experiences into a reasonable order on the page, new thoughts come along out of nowhere and disrupt the whole business again. In short, even for its best practitioners, writing is usually a messy process; for the rest of us, it can seem absolutely hopeless.
How We Can Help
The Writing Center understands these frustrations and is prepared to help you through them while also thinking more about where they originate. We offer guidance on everything from the most basic components of style and grammar to your highest aspirations to clarity, elegance, and originality. While we don’t offer direct editing or proofreading on papers about to be submitted – in the end, the work must be yours, not ours – we are happy to read anything you have written, assess strengths and weaknesses, and identify ways you can improve, both short-term and long-term. This is not just for remedial help. Everyone can benefit from thinking more about their writing, and the best writers sometimes get the least feedback. Whatever your current talents as a writer, we are here to help you improve.
We are prepared to work with you on many aspects of writing, including:
- conceiving ideas for a paper (please feel free to meet with us even before you have a draft)
- writing a strong thesis statement
- developing a clear and logical structure
- finding support for an argument
- developing creativity and finding your “voice” as an author
- honing your writing process to make it more productive
- proofreading skills and basic mechanics
- proper citation
As we work on these kinds of practical skills and methods, we are also here to encourage more abstract reflection on different kinds of writing and the social and historical conditions that influence how we evaluate them. Whether we look at academic journals, literary fiction, technical writing, screenplays, or advertising slogans, almost nothing we read looks the way it did a few decades ago. The Writing Center encourages reflection about these changes and the forces that drive them, not only to help us notice, but also to help us think more carefully about what we value in the written word and why. In the end, we want to help you develop the skills to succeed as a writer by contemporary standards, but also the critical faculties to question whether those standards are the ones you wish to associate with success.
Two Ways to Work with Us
- Make an appointment with John! He is available most weekdays — just schedule a consultation through the link on the top-right side of this page.
- See a Peer Tutor! Peer tutoring is available Sundays through Thursdays, 4-10 pm. No appointment necessary — just drop by!
Where to Find Us
The Center is located on the main floor of Watzek Library, to the right of the reference desk and behind the reference book stacks. Our offices are against the west wall. Here’s a map.