With 45 employees, the Writing Center, located in Olin Library, is the largest student employer on campus. It’s also the only job on campus that requires new employees to take an academic class to work there.
Last year, the Writing Center required all new hires to enroll in a 0.25-credit experiential class that met once a week for 50 minutes. This semester students are required to enroll in a 0.5-credit English class, called Art & Craft of Analytical Writing, that meets for 80 minutes twice a week.
“I agreed to the set-up because the alternative seemed like it was going to be people weren’t taking their training as seriously,” Jeanne Griggs, the center’s director, said.
The current number of employees has also decreased from last year’s 56, according to Griggs, and two consultants now work in the center each shift instead of the three who did so in previous years.
The change to a 0.5-credit course was a response to professors’ desire for those working in the Writing Center to be better prepared to assist students with their papers.
“At least when I started, the two big concerns were the budget and the fact that certain professors weren’t happy about the service that we offer,” John Zito ’16, one of the Writing Center’s five student managers, said. “A professor would hear that their student went to the Writing Center and they sat down with somebody that didn’t know anything about their course.”
Haleh Kanani ’16, who works at the Writing Center, expressed ambivalence about the required course, which, when she took it was, worth 0.25 credit.
“I didn’t learn that much personally from being in the class,” Kanani said. “I understand why they want it, because it gives a certain level of uniformity to the way that we’re trained. But I honestly think I learned the most just from experience and from being in the Writing Center.”
New Writing Center student employees are required to buy two books for the mandated class, Writing with Power by Peter Elbow and Writing Analytically by David Rosenwasser, the same two books on the previous 0.25-credit course’s syllabus. If purchased used from the Kenyon bookstore these books would cost $15 and $30, respectively, for a total of $45. Full-time students taking four 0.5-credit courses a semester pay $5,900 per class.
New employees are guaranteed only one one-hour shift of walk-ins per week; returning employees may get two one-hour shifts. Employees are paid $9.07 per hour, which does not even out with how much is spent on the class. In one semester, a consultant working one shift per week would make approximately $136.05, for 15 weeks.
“I think it’s a lot to ask of people that they give up one of their slots for classes because they want to work at the Writing Center,” Kanani said. “I wonder if people who are taking the class for .5 credit are really getting more out of it than I got when I took it as a .25.”
The Writing Center has also discontinued “kindness hours,” which previously allowed students to give one-hour consultations to individuals outside of the Writing Center, according to Griggs. These were eliminated because so many hours were being logged that the Writing Center was informed it was going over its budget.
However, students also have the opportunity to do liaison work, in which the employee works with a particular class and its professor and offers consultation to the students within that class by appointment.
“Among the people that were liaisons, the average number of consultations was 15, and among people that weren’t liaisons, the average number of consultations was five,” Zito said in reference to last year’s statistics. He said that, overall, the average number of consultations per semester for the employees was eight.
The Writing Center’s hours have also changed from last year. It is now open Sundays from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays from 4-10 p.m., and Fridays from 2-3 p.m.