We’re writing as the Directors of First Year Writing and the First Year Experience with support from the Chair of the English Department, because we see plans evolving for the fall that trouble us greatly. We think our students will be troubled, too, when these plans become public, so we want to tell you about them now, while we still have time to change them.
As the college considers how to cut its budget for the fall, it’s weighing a proposal to raise the class size in English 110 from twenty students to twenty-five. That increase may not sound significant—we’re talking about five students, or an increase of 25%—but the research from scholars of higher education tells us otherwise.
Small class sizes are crucial in introductory writing classes, which lay the foundation for subsequent years of writing and research. English 110 is a required class for every student at Queens College, because it introduces new freshmen to practices of writing they will need to graduate and thrive in the careers they pursue. With this important job to do, it needs small class sizes to work.
In English 110, new college students work closely with their instructors and each other to increase their ability to express their own thoughts clearly in words. This kind of closeness helps them develop an audience for their work within and beyond the college, and it helps keep them in school.
English 110 is also the linchpin of the First Year Experience, where students make friends and establish writing groups by traveling from one class to another together. We know from our research that these kinds of communities make students much more likely to complete their degrees and graduate. And we know from our experience in the classroom that communities become harder to create as the class size grows.
We know also that our communities will face new challenges this fall as we practice social distancing by some definition. It seems unfair to our incoming freshmen to diminish their opportunities further by growing their class sizes, too.
Help us help them! The best thing you can do is also an easy thing: Go to FundQC.org, and call the phone numbers listed there for our state and local representatives. Tell them that you care about QC and you care about CUNY, so you think it’s important that the college keep its funding. You might explain what QC means to you, and you might also note that 73% of our student body identify as people of color, so funding it advances racial justice for New Yorkers, too.
Annmarie Drury, Director of First Year Writing
Gloria Fisk, Director of First Year Writing
Megan Paslawski, Director of First Year Experience
Amy Wan, Director of First Year Writing
Karen Weingarten, Acting Chair of the English Department
Christopher Williams, Associate Director of First Year Writing