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New Rules for English 001 students

Student reading in the F.W. Olin Library on Mills campus. (Chantelle Panackia)

All first year students at Mills must take English 001 regardless of any Advance Placement (AP) credit they may have received before starting at Mills. Last school year (2011-2012) was the first academic year that students could not bypass English 001 by taking a placement exam hosted by the English department. The exam took the form of a  a generic expository essay that was usually completed online before first years started the academic year at Mills.

English 001, Rhetoric and Composition is now compulsory for all first years and those transfer students who did not take a comparable course at their previous institutions. In the course, students learn analytical writing and how to write a clear college paper. Students in the introductory class receive help along the way, from peer edits to weekly tutorials put on by Teaching Assistants for the class and the opportunity to visit their professor during office hours.

“It’s an opportunity for all student writers,” said Cynthia Scheinberg, head of the English department. “(College writing) is not the same as skills learned from AP. And the opportunity for all students to take part in the tutorial program is great.”

Scheinberg also said writing only one essay to waive an entire class was not sufficient for students to show just how good or bad of a writer they were.

Professor Terah Demant said first years should want to take English 001 because it offers them the basic skills they use throughout their time at Mills.

“This is a baseline class, every class you take after (this class), assumes that you have the skills learned in this class,” Demant said. “All classes here are built on this class.”

Many of the staff are pleased with all students having to take English 001, but several students are discouraged by the change in policy.

“I think it’s bad because if you are considering English (for a major or minor), but you’re still undecided, you have to relearn material instead of branching out,” first year Rachel Strand said.

Other students who do not have transfer credit are pleased to be taking the introductory class.

“I never actually took it (AP English), but if I did, I would probably feel what others are right now, because I would want to bypass the class,” said first year Meagan Durfee. When asked how she felt on taking the class with no AP preparation she added, “I am happy to take the class, because I didn’t have a good English background in high school.”

While students feel like AP English was a good enough preparation system for college writing, Scheinberg disagrees.

“Everyone needs access to how to write a good college paper, and this is the best way of making sure it’s done,” she said.