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Writing Sections Added After Demand for Phase I Classes

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

As a result of oversubscribed Phase I writing requirement classes, one new writing section has been added this semester, and two more will be added next semester.

Expository Writing (21W.730), Writing and Experience (21W.731), and Introduction to Technical Communication (21W.732) are three classes offered both semesters that can be used to complete Phase I of the Institute's writing requirement. Ten sections were originally offered, allowing 200 students to take the classes, but 269 students registered for them, said Coordinator of the Writing Requirement Leslie C. Perelman.

As a result, an additional section was added to accommodate 25 more students, Perelman said.

Those students who were lotteried out will be given priority next semester, so no one will be lotteried out twice, said Alan P. Lightman, head of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Of the students registered, there are 63 freshmen, 114 sophomores, 51 juniors, and 31 seniors, Perelman said. "It is interesting because many of these students have already passed Phase I, especially those who are juniors and seniors."

Pre-meds cause crowding

The new surge in the number of students wanting to take Phase I writing classes is caused by medical school writing requirements and the new Freshmen Evaluation Essay standard, Perelman said.

"Starting a few years ago, more and more MIT students have been applying to medical schools," Lightman said. "And since medical schools usually require a course in expository writing, the demand for these classes has gone up."

There are other writing classes offered that satisfy most medical schools' requirements, but students generally choose to take the Phase I writing classes instead, Lightman said.

"Twenty to 25 percent of MIT students have expressed some interest in medicine," Perelman said. "This interest has put a tremendous strain on the writing department."

Currently under discussion are additional subjects that could be used for medical school requirements in order to alleviate the crowding problem, Perelman said.

The second reason more students, a majority of whom are sophomores, are taking writing classes is because of the stricter Freshman Essay Evaluation passing standards introduced in 1995, Perelman said.

About 25 percent fewer students passed the evaluation under the new standard, Perelman said. Twenty percent of freshmen and 17 percent of sophomores passed the evaluation, compared to 48 percent of juniors and 39 percent of seniors.

"Since the standard has gone up, more students have failed," Lightman said. "More students need to pass Phase I, and so more students needs to take the writing classes to pass Phase I."

"We are hoping to get word out to advisers who will encourage students to submit papers instead of taking writing classes," Perelman said.