Improve TU #15: Ditch Writing for the Professions as a required class

Writing for the Professions is to my collegiate career what the “Caddyshack” sequel is to the original film: a painful ending that should never have happened. The class is required for people who are graduating with degrees not from the College of Arts & Sciences, even double majors. Even double majors like myself, who have one A&S degree and one business degree. You read that correctly. Even though I’m graduating with an A&S degree and came to TU with AP English credits (and write for the student newspaper!), I still need to be taught how to write.

In my syllabus, the class’s purpose is to “provide students with practice in the kinds of writing expected in the professional world.” Our first assignment? Properly draft a work email. That’s right, an email. Nevermind that all of us are collegiate juniors and seniors. Nevermind that many of us have gotten internships, had interviews and have written hundreds of emails in our lives to multiple professional entities. Instead, TU believes it important to spend our time teaching us how to write proper emails.

The English department has a convenient attendance policy for its Monday-Wednesday courses. Three unexcused absences? That’s a drop of a letter grade. In my syllabus week classes, my instructor actually said that for us to get credit and have an excused absence for a death in the family, we’d need to bring a copy of the funeral program. In my class, five minutes late is a tardy. Three tardies? That’s an unexcused absence. I can understand this seriousness for a capstone course that’s integral for my major. But for a class that’s, in part, teaching me how the English department believes a proper business email should be written? You’re kidding me!

For the course itself, my final assignment is a 30 – 40 minute presentation on an issue that affects young people, in a group of four. I’ve talked to enough businessmen and financiers alike to know what the finance industry likes: clear, concise, to the point. I’ve yet to meet a single finance professional who told me he wants to hear a 40-minute presentation. In fact, the industry is famous for the elevator pitch for a reason: knowing how to sell yourself and your information in 45 seconds could be the difference between a job on Wall Street and flipping burgers for the golden arches. Nobody in their right mind wants even the CEO to drone on for 40 minutes about a topic in a meeting. Likely, the CEO would not want to inflict this kind of pain on himself, let alone his employees.

Sure, the class has its rare useful days. Teaching us how to write proper memos is (surprise!) actually important. Learning how to write a professional letter, even though the Collins College of Business holds workshops on professional correspondence, is actually important. Because business people write memos. And business people write letters.

Yet this is writing for the PROFESSIONS. Do stock traders and entry-level analysts often write 12-page research papers? Brevity is the name of the game in the financial industry. Nobody wants to read twelve pages of information that could have been easily condensed into one. Does a CFO, COO or CEO have enough time in the day to scan a 15-page paper to make a decision? Of course not. Will I get a promotion because it took me 20 minutes to tell you something that could have been intelligently articulated in four? I think you get the picture.

ENGL 3003 is a class with assignments that have more bearing on the English world than the business one. This is a problem, since the course is literally intended to assist you in writing for your profession.

On top of the asinine attendance policy, junior and senior students in that class have serious workloads outside of it. For instance, I have 19 hours this semester so I can graduate in four years. That means I have fifteen hours of senior-level finance classes, capstone, a Russian class and ENGL 3003. So when weighing what I can give my best effort towards, either ENGL 3003 or sixteen hours of courses that make a difference in my career, which do you think I’ll choose?

I’m not saying TU needs to trash this class completely, but TU needs to set up a system by which students can test out of the course so we don’t waste our precious time in such a class. Perhaps this looks like a test that asks you about parts of speech, proper etiquette on memos and letters and asks questions about presentation technique. Maybe it’s a written test that asks you to write a sample memo or paper, and if it’s error-free enough, you pass. Maybe it’s a simple grammatical exam that asks you to fix comma splices, run-ons and dangling modifiers. Maybe it’s even easier than that: if a student brings in AP credit from AP Language or AP Lit (like I did), maybe he already knows how to write an email? Crazy logic, I know.

Business professors know what the business industry requires of its workers. Maybe the solution is offering a class that each college, in turn, helps create with less input from the English department and more input from the department that knows the most about business students’ future careers.

Whatever it is, TU needs a way to make sure people don’t have to suffer through this travesty of a course unless they absolutely have a proven lack of the alleged skills the class claims to teach.

Post Author: Alex Garoffolo