As a way of putting my oar into this wac talk, I'll start with two things you said in one of your initial posts Doug: before dropping your test you'd want something solid in place so the whole edifice won't crash down, and two, that surely we can expect "some" level of facility from university student writers. Well, at Laurentian (as I see it anyway) our competency etesting ethos began with the second assumption behind it, and has evolved or mutated or something into a position which has a lot of your first assumption behind it. WAC evolved as backup to the competency test, as Phillipa says, but is now trying to extricate itself, but gingerly, so as not to lose the substantial financial support of the university, and other faculty.
My question is how far we should extricate. I'm becoming quite pragmatic on this. Of course I'd like to see the test disappear, all courses be WAC courses, all students be WAC students, all profs be WAC profs, etc, etc., but I'm not going to hold my breath. Without the symbolic power of the test--and that's largely what it is I'm increasingly convinced--the majority of faculty would see no reason to transform pedagogy to a "writing to learn" milieu; they'd see the 'problem' as having gone away. Or, they'd continue to blame English and the lower schools for its continuance. And administrators (and I'm enough of one to know whatof I speak) would see the cancellation of the test as a publicity opportunity, and a way to save a boodle in tough times.
The grassroots commitment is the best kind, but it will always be a minority, a small minority. They are the people we have to count on to imagine creative policy to move the majority from "learning to write" to "writing to learn". I'd say at Laurentian, of perhaps 50 WAC profs, about 20 are the grassroots core. It's their talk, support, action and policy that constitutes the WAC atmosphere the other 30 breathe. In turn the group of 50, in their talk, teaching etc, change the milieu of the institution as a whole, slowly, over time.
And where does the example of the grassroots core do its work most strategically? One place is in the faculty seminar. Here the 20 work on the 30, though not as bluntly or even consciously as I'm drawing it. And the recent implementation of a requirement that WAC profs 'must' attend two such seminars a year supports my statement above that the committed core makes creative policy for the other WACers. Without the policy we got about 20 to 30 at the 'big' seminars; at smaller issue specific ones we'd get 10-15. So now the others must come; and they'll hear about "writing to learn" etc. Another place where the core does its work is in the grading sessions for the test. We always get more out for these (now its required too) because people feel the urgency of the 'test'; but also because we pay them $30. per hour to mark. These sessions are the crucible for developing a Laurentian community standard in writing, something that ebbs, flows, tightens, loosens, year by year, around a relatively loosely stated group of criteria which are marked holistically.
Which of course brings us to the debate between discipline specific literacy and common literacy. I've gone on long enough fo rthis post so I'll just fnish by saying that while I'm in English and so have to learn the convention s there, I'm also a citizen and have to operate in many discourses; in fact my disciplinary discourse is only part of my life, and not the largest part. But there's enough in common between my worlds, that I don't get labelled schizophrenic (though my wife wonders sometimes). So, the symbolic power of the test is also reflected in the message it sends to the larger citizenry, a message of accountability ( to use the buzzword), and responsibility.