Muir College Announces New Writing Sequence: John Muir Writing Extravaganza


Written by: Pilan Scruggs

Greene told reporters that after completing his first draft, he realized that he confused the word limit with the character limit.
Photo by: Jessica Ma

Muir College Writing Program (MCWP) director Carrie Wastal recently unveiled a complete overhaul of the MCWP series. She said that the provosts from the other colleges had come together and forced Muir to change its writing requirements for a number of reasons, least of which being that in the most recent application cycle 95% of the applicants listed Muir as their first choice.

“Apparently a quarter of them didn’t bother ranking any of the other colleges,” Wastal continued, “So it’s a big problem. We were told to make immediate changes.”

According to Wastal, the current sequences will be replaced by a five-course sequence for entering freshmen and a three-course sequence for transfer students.

“We also want to make the entire sequence cumulative so that upon completing it students can see connections between all of the themes explored,” Wastal explained, “And we thought renaming the program might help. We let the current instructors decide the new name, but maybe that was a bad idea as they unanimously selected ‘John Muir Writing Extravaganza.’”

Starting in the Fall Quarter of 2018, entering freshmen will take John Muir Writing Extravaganza (JMWE) 40, 50, 60, 170, and 180. Transfer students will take JMWE 125, 170, and 180. The program changes will only apply to students who enter in or after Fall 2018, so no current students will be affected. The college will continue to offer MCWP courses for as long as necessary for all current students to graduate, to the relief of many students.

“The announcement scared me to death until my friend told me that we would not have to deal with it,” admitted third-year Bradley Greene. “I just barely scraped by with a C in Muir 50, and if I was forced to take three more writing classes, I would have just dropped out. However, I’m all for making the freshmen suffer. They need some way to learn that college, and life in general, isn’t a cakewalk.”

“While I’m certainly overjoyed that I will not have to take these classes, I still think the changes are for the better,” said Amy Nishiki, a second-year literature major. “It’s good that the college is giving students more opportunities to improve their writing as that is an extremely valuable tool. I just hate the new name, though. It sounds less like a writing class and more like a party at the Gatsby mansion.”

The content of each individual course is yet to come, but the defining feature of the new sequence is the final course: JMWE 180. It will be a year-long course (JMWE 180A-B-C) to be taken in the expected year of graduation, and under adviser supervision, students will write a senior thesis. When asked why Muir was introducing such a demanding requirement, Wastal turned to her co-presenter, MCWP program representative Helen Mout.

“As always, our objectives are to help the students succeed and improve their writing,” she said. “Our hope is that by having students write a thesis, we will fully develop their writing skills and give them advantages over others wherever they may be headed after graduation.”

Following the presentation, Mout was heard discussing with co-workers how the redesign was essentially built from her frustration with having to meet with an endless stream of students who were concerned about not being able to complete the MCWP sequence. Later, Muir Student Mary Shoenberg was overheard complaining about Muir’s rigorous requirements, saying that “as soon as Sixth’s GEs become more appealing I’ll switch immediately.”

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