Interview with UBC tutor Cole Klassen

Editor’s Note: The University of British Columbia in Canada, which has an enrollment of about 60,000 students, is planning on closing its Writing Centre. Tutors have been fighting to prevent this closure. We interviewed a UBC Writing Centre tutor, Cole Klassen, about current and future efforts to fight the closure of the Writing Centre.

You can find our initial post on the UBC Writing Centre closure here. To show your support for keeping the UBC Writing Centre open, you can sign this petition!

ColeKlassenHeadshot (2)Hi Cole! Can you tell us about your studies at UBC and your work at the Writing Centre?

I transferred from Douglas College to UBC last summer. I’m just finishing my third year. I am in the creative writing BFA program and I am minoring in philosophy. I’ve worked at the UBC writing centre since the start of the fall semester as a peer writing tutor. I began tutoring at the Douglas College Learning Centre, where I worked as an online and face to face writing and content peer tutor for two years.

Who is involved in the efforts to keep the UBC Writing Centre open? What have you done so far?

The movement was started by current and past UBC writing centre tutors. We started by creating the online petition, then worked to spread the word through sharing it on social media, emailing instructors, and visiting their classes to talk to students. One of our tutors also did an interview for the Ubyssey article on the issue. We also emailed Writing Centre experts for advice, such as people from the IWCA. We’ve been collecting letters to submit with the petition as well, from some students, UBC teachers and officials, and writing centre experts. Recently we spoke to some UBC officials about how to proceed with the petition, and plan to submit it soon.

What are your upcoming plans for efforts to keep the Centre open?

At the moment, our plan is to formally submit the petition along with the letters we’ve collected soon. If submitting the petition doesn’t have the impact we hoped, we will most likely continue pushing for change by organizing events and seeking more mainstream media sources.

The UBC Writing Centre; Photo courtesy of Cole Klassen

The UBC Writing Centre; Photo courtesy of Cole Klassen

Is there anything readers can do to assist you?

Other than signing the petition along with a comment and sharing it, being aware of the moves that post-secondary administration tend to make is all I can think of. For example, UBC seems to lack funding for necessary things like student services, but finds funding for bigger administration and building projects. For example, I got CRLA tutoring certification through tutoring at the Douglas College Learning Centre (at an institution with half the amount of students, smaller class sizes, and a cheaper tuition). I received over fifty hours of training. At the UBC writing centre, tutors receive no more than 8 hours in training per year. This lack of attention to important services seems to be the case at many institutions—especially large ones.

The other tutors and I were pleasantly shocked by how successful our petition has been. All it takes is some organization and social media skills to get the word out. I guess we don’t know what effect the petition will ultimately have yet, but hopefully the movement will be successful in bringing students the services they need. Student services are about helping people, and being aware of what struggles student service workers are having at other schools and supporting them in this is another way of reflecting this helpfulness. If writing centre people from all across North America didn’t react to our movement and sign our petition, it would be a lot smaller. It’s more difficult to create an impactful movement with just the students at a single university.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thank you so much for your support! Thank you to media sources like you, as well as every person that signed the petition, shared it, or offered help. It was very inspiring for the other tutors and I to see a reaction so large and full of so much passion. It’s comforting that the writing centre community is such a supportive place, and also that people outside of the writing centre community care so much about students getting the resources they need.

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