Opinion | Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: Spectator’s coverage of UWriting ignores SEAS students

To the editor,

I was very disappointed by the recent news article “Students, faculty question role of University Writing within Core Curriculum” for failing to include the perspective of any engineering students. While the article begins, “The first-year writing course, which is required for all CC and SEAS students,” the only interviews mentioned in the article were with a variety of Columbia College students. This causes the article to be ridiculously biased towards the needs of CC students and to ignore the rest of the students who have to take UWriting.

One reason UWriting is considered unnecessary by the students interviewed in the article is because it covers similar skills to Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization. Too bad these aren’t classes SEAS students are required to take! In fact, UWriting is the only essay-based class engineers need to take in order to graduate. Taking away UWriting would take away our only required opportunity to learn how to write at a college level. This consideration is completely ignored in the article.

Another argument this article presents is that “you're better off learning how to write depending on the styles in classes that you take as opposed to learning one style.” This neglects to consider that engineers don’t have any classes that really teach them to write in complete sentences, let alone engineering essays or reports. While, yes, we may have to write a paper or two for Art of Engineering, we don’t get any coaching on how to actually write. In fact, the only time I’ve learned about how to write something other than in UWriting was in a history class, after we all did so poorly on our papers that the TA had to intervene. The rest of the classes I have taken have been far more focused on teaching what we’re writing about, rather than how to write about it.

For a “news” piece, this investigation doesn’t seem to have a lot of objective news in it. I’d feel differently if it had included a general survey assessing the usefulness of UWriting. I don’t see the point in writing a news article about something that doesn’t have either an event, such as a student petition to change the curriculum, or statistics to back it up. With this lack of critical reporting, how can I be sure that this is an accurate reflection of the population and not just some debate among a very small portion of the university blown out of proportion by cherry-picked interviews that create the impression that “many” people are opposed to this course?

Regardless of my concerns with the article’s objectivity, excluding engineers from this news report was unfair. Perhaps the article’s arguments are right for CC students—maybe they don’t necessarily “need” UWriting. But as an engineer, I absolutely did, and I believe my peers and I had a right to be part of this investigation.

I find it extremely embarrassing that Spectator, a journalistic organization whose editor-in-chief is an engineer, so blatantly ignored the perspective of SEAS students and their need for a writing education.

Alexandra Della Santina

SEAS ’17

The author is a SEAS senior majoring in electrical engineering. She is the current poet laureate of the Columbia University Marching Band and a former columnist for Spectator.

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