How many students used the Writing Center in recent years?

Anna Bennethum, a tutor for Mckee Library, meets with Jomari
Villoso in the writing center.
February 2, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)
Anna Bennethum, a tutor for Mckee Library, meets with Jomari Villoso in the writing center. February 2, 2023. (Photo by Mila Bales)

Written by: Emily Morgan

Mckee Library’s annual reports for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years show a decline in students attending the Writing Center. Much of this decline is not only due to the pandemic, but also to tutor shortages, according to both Sonja Fordham, the Writing/Tutoring Center Director and the latest annual report. 

According to the 2021-2022 report, a total of 2,654 students attended Southern that year, 1,749 Writing Center appointments were provided during the school year and, on average, students visited two to three times. 

According to the 2020-2021 annual report, the total enrollment was 2,903, and the total number of Writing Center appointments was 2,008. The average number of times students came to the Writing Center that year is unknown. 

Fordham stated in an email to the Accent that the number of appointments over the past couple years is a significant drop from previous years. 

“This is a decrease from the number of appointments during the preceding five years when the number of appointments was between 1,260 to 1,777 per semester,” she wrote. “After the pandemic, writing centers all over the United States saw a decrease in the number of appointments that students scheduled. Our Writing Center has been no different. The pandemic had a big impact on students’ mental health, and many students may feel so overwhelmed that they don’t feel like they can add another thing to their daily schedule. I hope that this semester and in future semesters, students will recognize the value of utilizing the Writing Center during the process of writing their papers.” 

Selina O’Connor, junior religious education major, said she hasn’t been visiting the Writing Center because she found other writing resources.

“I think the Writing Center is very useful, but I forget that it exists a lot,” she wrote in a text message. “Like, I’m more likely to put my paper through Grammarly than go to the Writing Center, simply out of convenience.” 

Other student comments were more positive: Lydia Kelly, freshman business major, texted, “What I’ve heard from other students about the Writing and Tutoring Center was the fact that they wished they had visited it earlier.”  

Some of the decline in attendance, according to last academic year’s annual report, is attributed to the shortage of tutors, which did not match student demand. Currently, 11 tutors are employed at the Writing Center, two of whom are temporary workers. This is a drop from 2020-2021, which had 14 tutors, one being a temporary worker. 

Shelly Merryman, Mckee Library’s Tutoring Center office manager, explained the requirements for becoming a tutor: Qualified candidates must have at least a B in the classes they would tutor, recommendations from two professors and a minimum of four hours available to tutor. 

“Starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, all tutors will have the option to become [College Reading and Learning Association] CRLA certified tutors. Training for the certification will include 10 hours of instruction on the basics of tutoring, learning or student techniques, communication, and ethics and equality,” Fordham wrote, “The Writing Center tutors currently take part in ongoing weekly training on the theories and practices of the tutoring of writing. This training includes strategies for facilitating writing improvement in others.”

More information about tutoring is available at Mckee Library. Individuals interested in becoming tutors should talk to Fordham, or send an email to Mckee Library. 

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