My Thanks to the Writing Program at Dartmouth
By Andrew Verstein
Published on Thursday, January 19, 2006
To the Editor:
These thoughts were provoked by recent news and Joseph Asch's op-ed ("Poor Writing at Dartmouth," Jan. 16). I would like to share them with the campus.
My first college paper came back with a "D-" and a note: "If this isn't a sloppy example of your work, you are going to have a very difficult time at Dartmouth." As I understood it, no one in my freshman seminar received similar marks or comments. At a school that seemed to cherish its "Gentlemen's B-" I felt uniquely unprepared and resigned myself to becoming a second-class student.
I count my blessings that Ehud Benor, grading my work in another class, urged me to visit Nancy Leavitt-Reibel, the Religion DEP Editor. I met often with Nancy to revise my writing, sometimes more than once a week. Because of her in-department role, Nancy was familiar with the content of my assignments and could thus focus on the structure and form of my writing to a degree the Composition Center/RWiT tutors could not. And because I worked consistently with Nancy for four years -- I even took extra Religion classes to keep myself under the department's auspices -- I was able to develop the trust that is necessary to dramatically improve my approach to writing.
Since that time I have enjoyed some modest successes (Nancy proofread my Yale Law School personal statement) and, in reasserting my confidence, I found again the love of learning that brought me to Dartmouth. I am very grateful to Nancy and it causes me great concern to think that Dartmouth will soon have to do without her.