Jeanine Brown sat next to the disconnected phone at her desk in the Writing Lab. She hasn’t had a phone there for a year.
“I’ve been told there’s one person who’s responsible for all the phones on campus,” she said. “One person.”
She has tried to track that person down before, but had little luck. She relies on communication mostly through email on her personal laptop now. She used to have her own office computer, but not this semester.
This is only a small part of the broader effects budget cuts have had on the Writing Lab.
Jeanine Brown, the Writing Lab’s only staff member, is set to retire in the fall. Due to the administration’s decision to freeze hiring at Pierce, there will not be a staff member to replace her, and the Writing Lab will most likely go with her.
Brown first started her work at Pierce in 1989, and she taught for three years before working in the Writing Lab. In 1993, she became part of the permanent staff, she said. Her former colleague, Bonnie Rapp, retired last year after teaching at the Writing Lab for 30 years.
Due to the hiring freeze, Rapp was not replaced, and Brown now runs the Writing Lab herself. Her partner’s retirement has put a strain on her, she said.
“I love the work, but it is a two person job,” she said.
Richard Follett, professor of English, teaches an English 28 class and asks many of his students to get help at the Writing Lab. Coupled with the announced elimination of student tutors, he believes students will have fewer resources if they want to improve their writing.
Besides seeing himself and other professors devoting more one-on-one time to students, the only other option he sees for students is to work in study groups, he said.
“They’ll have to rely on each other, and I don’t know how that’s going to work,” Follett said.
Compared to a university, where students can live on campus, students commuting to community colleges like Pierce will have it much harder to find time to work together, he said.
While Brown believes that students can definitely learn from each other, it’s not as valuable as professional tutoring, she said.
“You’re talking about the difference between someone who’s trained and someone who isn’t,” she said.
With basic English classes more full than ever, she believes students need more one-on-one time with instructors. Last semester, the Writing Lab took on 65 workshop appointments and 189 one-on-one appointments, she said.
“It seems to me that the students who need the help the most, are getting less support,” she said.
Adding to the increasing need is an increasing number of students taking on more work. She hasn’t seen so many classes before in which students work full-time, often to support their family, and still find time to go to school and tutoring, she said.
“A lot of the people that I see here are very serious, or they wouldn’t be coming here,” Brown said.
For that reason, she remains optimistic that students will find a way to seek out help, whether it is through low-price tutoring or through their peers.
She also speculates on whether the Writing Lab could return to its original setup, where it was entirely run by professors who donated their time.
“[Tough financial times have] happened before, and people find away to survive it,” she said. “And they will again. They have to.”
After retiring from the Writing Lab, Jeanine Brown plans on continuing to teach English.
The Writing Lab is currently located at the Village in room 8310B.