UFV students rally against Writing Centre changes

Opponents say change to peer-mentoring model will limit centre's effectiveness, but administrators say new centre will reach more students.

Rally organizer Jack Brown speaks at a demonstration Wednesday against changes to the University of the Fraser Valley’s writing centre.

Rally organizer Jack Brown speaks at a demonstration Wednesday against changes to the University of the Fraser Valley’s writing centre.

Dozens of University of Fraser Valley (UFV) students rallied on campus Wednesday to protest changes to the university’s writing centre.

The rally saw a petition bearing the names of more than 800 people handed to UFV provost Eric Davis, and speakers decried what they said was the effective end to “the best writing centre in Canada.”

Administrators, however, say changes to the centre are intended to expand the services available to students.

UFV’s Writing Centre had been structured around five faculty members offering writing assistance to around 1,000 students a year who needed writing help and assistance turning their knowledge and ideas into essays and university-calibre papers.

Jack Brown, a 2012 UFV grad who started the petition, said the centre was unique in the depth of assistance and teaching it offered.  He and some other students and alumni are unhappy with changes to the centre, which will see the creation of an “academic success centre” offering peer-mentoring services in a range of subjects.

The university’s vice-president of student services Jody Gordon said the move is intended to expand the centre’s reach. She said the new centre will include one faculty member, two staff members, and between 40 to 60 trained peer mentors. Meanwhile, four of the faculty members who had been based at the centre will begin teaching writing courses to students in a formal setting. Gordon said the moves won’t save the university money.

“The writing centre is not closing,” Gordon said. “Without cutting costs, we’ll be serving about 2,800 students in the academic success centre.”

She said faculty members would also be able to access the centre to receive advice, including about how to help students improve their writing skills. She also stressed that the centre would create jobs for dozens of peer mentors.

But while Gordon said many other universities have successful peer-mentoring centres, Brown argued the level of UFV’s Writing Centre went far beyond the average North American standard.

“Very few other institutions have writing centres staffed by faculty.

“I have no problem with peer mentoring,” he said. “But it’s not a replacement.”