I'm not sure if I'll be able to answer all your questions, but let me try. First, I have no info on southwestern, but if YOU happen to obtain some, I'd be most interested (my research into U.S. Wac programs is still much thinner than I would like it to be.)
From my reading, however, I think that a grass-roots approach to developing a program is definitely the best option because it depends on a core group of faculty committed to the idea/practice. A top-down approach runs the risk of alieanating faculty from the start.
At Laurentian, WAC profs are "existing" profs who choose to teach a WAC course; we offer ongoing support and pedagogy seminars, but these are primarily voluntary options so only some attend. We have re-instituted this year a policy which requires all faculty to attend at least 2 seminars a year, but this has entailed quite a bit of grumbling (as well as substantial support -- a mix of attitudes).
Students need a score of 1 in writing competency (graded on a scale of 4 to 1) in order to graduate (at least, most students do. Some schools/programs at the university have opted out of WAC/writing competency). Students may achieve this score either through the test OR in a course. And yes, administration can block graduation until the score has been achieved.
I am fairly confident that it will be possible to shift the perceptions and practices of WAC here away from the test/competency/basic writing model to make them more in line with WAC in the sense that I understand the term (which is essentially your understanding). However, this will take time and lots of communication/liaison to counter some entrenched "misperceptions". Again, though, let me stress that a good number of faculty do seem to understand and teach WAC (or WI) courses in excellent ways. I think (though Laurence may well disagree) that this shift can only really occur if we diminish and eventually omit the test altogether within the program. As long as it exists, it presents a kind of paradox between what we say WAC is on the one hand, and the practices of writing assessment that we perform on the other. But for all the difficulties and seeming conflicts that the program currently experiences, I think it is a much preferable option to a generic "freshman composition" type program. Which brings me to another point you made, about WI courses being primarily upper year courses, combined with a more introductory/basic composition program for writers who need lots of basic help. Laurentian's WAC courses are taught in all years, though I would say more are 1st or 2nd year courses than 3rd or 4th. I would like to see many more upper year courses, without sacrificing the lower year ones (but that means being able to enlist the support of more faculty). I don;t think I favour the idea of running non-WAC basic writing courses. What we try to do here is have the Language Centre be the place where students who really need a lot of individual attention can work closely with peer tutors. And students who are enrolled in WAC courses are also encouraged to take advantage of the Language Centre's free services. Professors can recommend or even require their students to visit the Centre. Of course, most students do not (probably partly out of embarassment), but I'm hopeful that this may change. I think there's a danger in having whole separate courses for really "poor" writers. In a sense, Laurentian does have 2 such courses, but they are intended for students whose first language is not English. We used to have an introductory essay course, taught by the English department, but thankfully that is no longer being taught. Instead, we run several sections of a first-year literature and writing course. The course (which I believe Cathy Schryer designed or helped to design when she taught at Laurentian) has no more than 25 students per section in a workshop format. It is, I think, an excellent example of a writing intensive, content course.
okay, enough for now!
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