First Lesson In English Comp: Use Lots Of Red Tape

University of Houston students in Freshman Composition I were told this week that professors needed to verify that the students deserved to be in the more advanced course (aka ENGL 1303) rather than the more fundamental Basic Writing (ENGL 1300).

To do that, they would have to get their teachers their high-school SAT scores. The same SAT scores they sent to UH months ago which got them admitted.


Couldn’t the professors just get the numbers from UH? No.

Couldn’t the students just write down what their scores were? No. We need verification. It needs to come from the College Board.

Couldn’t the students just bring in their high-school transcript which includes all the scores? The scores the high school gets from the College Board? No.

The sealed version? No.

In one class, students were told they had to e-mail the professor the place on the online College Board records where their score resided so she could look them up. To do so, of course, they would need to remember their logon and password that they probably last used more than a year before to receive those scores.

Surely, if someone couldn’t find his logon and password, some other reporting method could be found? No.

And the consequence? You’d be dropped from the class. Striking fear into hearts and minds across the desk tops.

This particular professor apologized for the trouble, chalked it up to problems with “the system,” but remained resolute in the need for and method of verification.


Asked for an explanation, Director of University Communication Eric Gerber said the situation “arises out of an excess of caution about some students being mistakenly registered” for the wrong class.

“We have apparently been using a sort of 'suspenders and a belt' approach, using duplicative methods to verify a student's eligibility for the ENGL 1303 course. We do it institutionally and we do it on an instructor-by-instructor basis,” he says.

Actually, Gerber said, no student would actually be dropped for complications in getting the information. And he acknowledged that “having the students actively prove they are eligible is redundant and, I'm told, that approach is now under review and likely to be streamlined."

How about dropped?

Margaret Downing

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