University to find new place for Writing Centre tutorial services

The university has increased efforts to find a new permanent home for the Writing Centre’s tutorial services in response to protests over the last month against its potential discontinuation.

While a firm decision has not been reached on the matter, university staff are working hard to relocate the centre and hope to see it continue smoothly into September 2016.

Just over three weeks ago, it was announced that the Writing Centre would be shutting down its tutorial services due to budget constraints. In response to this, a petition made its way around campus asking community members to support the Writing Centre. The petition now has over 1,500 signatures and many comments from both students and faculty.

“Because the students were mobilized, it mobilized us,” Associate-Provost Academic Innovation Hugh Brock explained, noting that there was always an intention to try and preserve the tutorial centre, but the student response catalyzed their work on the project.

“It’s been on our radar, but I would say absolutely that [The Ubyssey’s previous] story and the petition have made my office more aware that we really have to do something because it’s perceived as a valuable service.”

In the face of this perception, Brock put out a widespread call for a meeting to discuss the potential future of the centre. That meeting took place yesterday and included several representatives from the AMS, the UBC Library and Continuing Studies, among others.

“The one piece that we’ve been assured of is it will be here next year. It will be here in September,” said AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Jenna Omassi, the AMS’s representative at the meeting.

Because the students were mobilized, it mobilized us.

— Hugh Brock, associate-provost academic innovation

For Brock, the plan is to not only find a viable placement for the centre, but to reevaluate the entire business model. Student testimonies support that while those that use the service find it extremely helpful, not many are using it. Brock estimates that “1,600 students roughly, in big round numbers, use the tutorial service and another 1,400 are reached in things like workshops and classroom visits.” This number equates to about two per cent of the student body.

“I would say that our aspirations are to increase the number of students using it and increase the number of times they use it,” said Brock.

“I don’t think there was ever a doubt that this was a vital program and a very useful program,” said Peter Moroney, executive director of Continuing Studies — the office that previously housed the program and can no longer afford to do so. “I think really the challenge is [to find] operationally where is the best home for it and I can see a real effort now to maintain the core benefit of the program.”

The AMS and the UBC Library are both potential new homes for the tutorial centre. However, Omassi said that the AMS would prefer to work closely with the tutorial centre, but not house the service.

“[It’s] just not really appropriate for the AMS to be housing [the tutorial centre] — rather, we would work with them to make sure we are offering services that are complementary rather than overlapping,” said Omassi.

Although a firm decision has not been made, multiple sources confirm that Continuing Studies will almost certainly not house the tutorial centre this fall. A better fit would be a location that can financially support the centre, Brock explained, which Continuing Studies can’t do. Since it is a self-funded department, funding a service is counter-intuitive — especially in the face of budget cuts. 

“I think that things will be rolling by mid-April,” Brock estimated. “I’d like to have improvements in place for September.”

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