University Writing Center Blog

Posted on January 22nd, 2019 in Consulting by University Writing Center

Written by: Michael B.

“Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy… Understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times.” ― Socrates

The quotation above is one from my Writing Center “Bio”, a kind of introduction to who I am for potential clients scheduling a session, and one that gives a taste of what I value and how I view my goal as a consultant. This quotation, a dramatic and (for me) compelling vision of the philosophical calling of philosophers helps explain how the Writing Center occupies a peculiar social space in the University, and one that I find particularly compelling as both a consultant and philosophy graduate student. I wanted to give this keyhole view into my personality because what I value about the Writing Center is so rooted in my perspective on the world, on writing, and on what people ought to pursue.

The Writing Center is often seen (at least for those inside it) as a compelling vision of what organizations can be for multiple reasons, primarily because it 1. Has a strong moral component to its mission and action, 2. Its work is fundamentally beneficial and helpful for many individuals, and 3. It encourages an open and fairly philosophical perspective among its members and clients.

To flesh out these three criteria:

First, the moral impetus that Writing Centers possess is somewhat fluid, but the core of aiding its clients with flexibility and empathy centers remains throughout, with a wonderful commitment to helping writers of all backgrounds and “literacies”. What this translates to is a program that has a ton of interest in constant reexamination and revaluation, and despite working in several different positions in both Childcare and low-level positions at other University organizations, I haven’t yet found an organization that is comparatively focused on being flexible to how it serves its clients.

Second, a fairly universal part of being in the academic setting is writing. Regardless of placement or professional aspiration, every segment of the University revolves around some level of written communication, and having a service specifically available to help students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others better their writing is a clear and present good. I have never had a session wherein I felt that I didn’t serve some good to whomever I was consulting, and I cannot think of a single piece of writing that I cared about that wouldn’t have been bettered by bringing it to the Writing Center.

Third, the Writing Center (in all its substantiations that I’ve interacted with) has a permanent fixation on a particular philosophical interpretation of Writing, Literacy, and Rhetoric. I will not due this justice, but will try to express this succinctly and somewhat accurately: Writing Centers see pieces of writing (or artifacts, as my Rhetoric professors would name them) as imperfect, organic objects that always have directions to grow, evolve, and change. These objects haven’t a black or white, wrong or right, position in the Universe, but instead are but an expression. These expressions are subject to different perspectives and criteria, like the usual standard of “standard” English or a professor’s guidelines, but defy simple designations of “good” or “bad”. In addition, Writing Centers view literacy as a multiplicity. I am literate in many forms of communication, just as everyone is, by knowing how to speak and write like a Philosophy student, a Doctor Who veteran, a millennial, and a user of the infamous “standard” English. I use the air quotes because Writing Centers have successfully argued to me that standard English is a liquid, something that doesn’t really exist universally, but is rather a fluid continuum with changes across the country, former Commonwealth, and English-speaking world. Whether I say “x, y, z” or “x, y, zed”, Writing Centers understand that language is all about the context, and an assignment is all the same. The question never seems to be “is it good?”, but rather “does it fit into this context?”

For these reasons and more, people tend to find Writing Centers to be welcoming, useful, and educational environment. For these reasons and more, I find working at the Writing Center a fruitful and intensely positive experience as I continue my education. I am by no means an expert on much of anything as a graduate student of twenty three, but in my years of working at Writing Centers at IUPUI and Marian University, I’ve been consistently moved by the passion and consideration of Writing Centers. They create a unique place to be, and if every organization had the same focus on its moral status, utility, and mission, the world would be a better place.