HFC’s New Writing Center

Photo of writing pad, pen, and computer keyboard.
Flickr Creative Commons Image by Pete O’Shea

This semester, Henry Ford College’s Eshleman Library became the home for The Writing Center. Currently seven English instructors staff the center. Director Michael Hill and Assistant Director Chelsea Lonsdale “oversee policy and administration of the center and work with writers during sessions.” Hill says, “Our Respondents (we don’t call them tutors) have the primary duty of working with writers in sessions.” The Respondent team consists of: Christie Simonson, Travis Heeren, Rebecca Jeffery, Bridgett Pizzino and Lia McCoskey. These faculty members help guide students on the path to success when it comes to their writing.

According to Hill, The Writing Center is the culmination of ten years of work. The Writing Center has developed a policy called, “A Statement on Openness, Inclusivity and Being Judgement-Free.” Hill believes, “This statement represents one of our most central values.”

Part of the statement reads: “Writing Centers are inherently multicultural and multilingual sites that welcome and accommodate diversity. Writing centers inclusively serve all students, including members of underrepresented groups such as people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and people with a range of abilities, economic needs, and linguistic expression. Writing center work is also conducted by a diverse population of Respondents and administrators.”

Hill says, “Our goal is to help writers think about the situation of writing, about their own goals and purposes, and about what their audiences need. We work with writers at any stage of the writing process, from understanding a writing task, to developing and establishing ideas, to planning and research, to drafting, to revision.” Hill continues, “Our sessions are always conversational, writer-focused and supportive. We want writers to leave their session feeling more like a confident writer writing for an audience than as a student doing a good job on an assignment.”

Hill clarifies that “The Writing Center is not a space for editing or proofreading. While we can address issues of clarity or issues of writing in an academic voice, we do not fix writing because we do not feel that writing needs to be fixed. Students should not come to us expecting to have a paper corrected; they should come to us to develop their understanding of particular writing projects and to enhance their understanding of themselves as writers.”

In an informal report, writing center faculty gathered student feedback. “I was given ideas from my own thinking since I had trouble collecting my thoughts and finding a way to speak them,” says one student. “I was confused in class about my next assignment and now I’m satisfied with the help I received,” says another.

Writing centers do have critics. In an article from The Medium on “The Writing Center Dilemma,” Paul Thomas identifies issues he believes to be major concerns when it comes to students learning from writing centers on campus. Thomas writes: “Class-level writing instruction and writing centers/labs must guard against two corrosive but alluring perspectives: (1) viewing writing instruction as remediation, and (2) seeing any course or session on ‘how to write’ as some sort of one-shot inoculation against ‘errors’ (a deficit view).”

Thomas quotes a study done at Temple University by Lori Salem who found that “practices that are near-orthodoxy in writing centers — such as nondirective instruction, in which tutors prompt students to come up with the right answers themselves; and a resistance to focusing on grammatical errors — cater to individuals who already have a strong grounding in grammar and composition, the sort of students who never turn up. That leaves the most frequent visitors underserved: female students, minority students, and those who grew up speaking a language other than English at home.”

Hill has a positive outlook on the future of HFC’s writing center. “Our current focus is on establishing The Writing Center as a space for individual sessions.” He says, “In the future, we plan on extending our reach by visiting classes to talk about writing by holding workshops and group sessions, by hosting writing groups, and by offering support for writing-centered campus events. We would also like to help instructors across the college think about how they can develop and support effective writing assignments for their students.” Hill adds, “We would also like to extend our reach out into Dearborn and local communities to provide them the opportunity to experience a public center of writing.”

The Writing Center is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments take priority. To schedule an appointment, The Writing Center can be reached by email at writingcenter@hfcc.edu. or by text message only at (313) 367-3250.

Services will be provided during the spring semester 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Center will be closed during the summer.