February 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 71  

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Simon Fraser good grammar wanting

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

Simon Fraser University doesn’t like illiterate students — especially ones trying to get into their school.

According to Roger Blackman, special advisor to the dean of arts at SFU, the university’s administration will begin disallowing applicants’ admission if their Grade 12 English average is lower than 60 per cent.

The move comes with a revamp of the university curriculum to get all graduates to possess a breadth of the sciences and humanities and fulfill an easy course requirement, Blackman said, who also sits on the task force for revamping the curriculum. “We want to be able to say every SFU graduate can communicate [well in English],” he added.

He was quick to point out that students with English as a second language will have different prerequisites, therefore, foreign students will have to complete a language efficiency test.

Blackman noted that 30 per cent of SFU’s applicants are transfer students from community colleges and will have to achieve 70 per cent or better. “All the students we admit, we want them to demonstrate an ability to communicate,” he added.

“People are always concerned [about] whether students can write,” said Western’s vice-provost and registrar Roma Harris. “I don’t think we’re having any crisis, [but] it’s always an issue.”

“We’ve been very fortunate at Western — I suppose if we were having a problem, then we’d do something,” she explained.

There are struggles with students, especially students with English as a second language, Harris noted, adding solutions are available for students with problems, such as the Student Development Centre.

“There’s been an ongoing need to support students in terms of their writing abilities,” noted Michael Kehler, assistant professor of education at Western, adding many universities, such as Western, have instructors teaching writing courses

He said a 60 per cent benchmark on English courses and literacy tests does not completely reflect the students’ abilities, noting there are immeasurable factors in these cases.

“We have to be careful excluding students with English not as a second language,” Kehler added, citing there must be support for those individuals.



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