WLP majors deserve more credits

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 25, 2012

At issue: Drafted SGA proposal asks for more printing funds.

Our take: Someday, our prints will come. 

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SGA President Tau Zaman sounded, well, presidential, when he said the shortage of print credits for Emerson students was a “social justice issue.” However, the Beacon believes that a certain sector of the student body finds itself at the greatest need: writing, literature, and publishing majors. 

Students in creative writing workshop classes face three or four major assignments each semester. In classes frequently capped at 16 students, 160 pages of printing—at minimum—for each 10-page essay or short story is required. It’s not uncommon for an undergraduate creative writer to print over 600 pages for his or her workshop class in a single semester. 

In terms of EC Cash, that’s almost 10 times the $5 allotted automatically by the college—not to mention the normal burden of three non-workshop classes. 

For bystanders outside the WLP bubble, a simple solution to cut printing costs to zero may come to mind: email or Google Docs. But old fashioned reams of paper, just like Gutenberg made, are essential to a writing workshop. For a proper critique, participants need to manhandle poems, short stories, and personal essays, coffee rings and all. Getting physical with the work allows budding editors to connect their minds to work via pen, a far more organic and creative process than staring into the dull throb of a MacBook Pro.

This is the process BA and BFA students must feel supported in and acquainted with if they hope to pursue MFA creative writing degrees at top-tier institutions like Princeton and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Costs that seem petty take their toll on the wallets of working students who, as Zaman said, sometimes consider the length of their work against the cost of printing. 

The college has made, and continues to make, considerable investments to improve the infrastructure and equipment required by Emerson majors. But compared to disciplines like performing arts, broadcasting, and film production, WLP is a cheap date. The major requires little more than a seminar table, Microsoft Word, and a gathering of writers with their editing caps on. With such basic needs, the program’s students deserve to have an investment made in them by way of print credits.

This investment can be discerned by professors, allowing the number of print credits available to a student to be customized according to workshop demands. If the syllabus calls for three original stories of a minimum ten pages throughout the semester, the cost of printing those stories can be added to the print credits of each student enrolled in the workshop. The precision with which the department calls its professors to devise syllabi ought to be taken literally. 

Creating original work from the nothingness of a blank Word document can be a grueling affair, and at the very least can be acknowledged with compensation at the printers. Give credits where they’re due.