Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement; Revision to EM 90-022; Revised

Executive Memorandum 99-003

February 04, 1999 (Revised June 22, 2015)

From: Paul Zingg, President

Subject: Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement; Revision to EM 90-022; Revised June 22, 2015

On the recommendation of the Academic Senate and the concurrence of Provost, I approve the following revision to EM 90-022, Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). This revision eliminates the Writing Effectiveness Screening Test (WEST) as a prerequisite for enrollment in Writing Proficiency (WP) courses, effective June 1, 1999, and authorizes changes in the University Writing Committee. It also authorizes the implementation of a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program, effective fall 1999, as described below.


The graduation writing assessment requirement (GWAR) is a California State University system requirement, per EO665, which states, in part: "All students ... must demonstrate competence in writing skills at the upper division level as a requirement for the baccalaureate degree."  Since 1999, CSU, Chico has met this requirement through the provision of Writing Proficiency (WP) courses in baccalaureate degree programs.  Each degree program is required to designate one or more WP courses to be taken by students in their junior or senior year. Satisfactory completion of the WP course fulfills the GWAR requirement.  This revision supercedes EM 99-003 and serves to clarify the roles of various entities on campus in the joint responsibility of the university to provide quality writing instruction and assure the writing competencies of CSU, Chico graduates.

Definition of Writing Proficiency (WP) Courses

Writing proficiency courses are courses in the major that integrate writing and writing instruction with the discipline-specific subject matter of the course.  In WP courses, students use writing in the English language to inquire into and organize the subject matter, engage in rigorous study about a body of knowledge essential to the major, and communicate that knowledge to others.

Course Elements

WP courses offered in traditional, face-to-face format are capped at no more than 30 students. Equivalent, alternative classrooms, larger enrollments or different delivery formats may be approved after careful consideration by the committee.  Faculty shall provide the rhetorically appropriate and discipline-specific writing instruction necessary for students to demonstrate writing proficiency in that major. In WP courses, students shall:

  • Write and read texts in order to question, investigate, and draw conclusions about ideas and issues on a selected subject
  • Practice key textual strategies such as finding, evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, and interpreting appropriate primary and secondary sources and integrating their own ideas with those of others
  • Learn and apply discipline-specific genre conventions such as organization, evidentiary support, and citation styles
  • Revise papers, based on feedback they receive from their instructor and/or peers, to address specific audiences for specific purposes,
  • Write frequently in the forms or genres of writing appropriate to the discipline
  • Reduce errors in grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling

The prerequisite to all WP courses at CSU, Chico is meeting the minimum requirement in GE Area A2 Written Communication or its equivalent at another institution. This prerequisite must be stated in writing in the University Catalog, each course syllabus, and in departmental writing standards.

Responsibilities of Academic Departments

Academic departments are responsible for (1) creating and developing high-quality writing proficiency (WP) courses, (2) maintaining and upholding policies and procedures for writing courses, (3) developing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for WP courses and carrying out regular assessments, and (4) providing WP course assessment information as requested by the Provost. For information in addition to that which follows, department Chairs and college Deans are encouraged to contact the Chair of the University Writing Committee (UWC).

1. Create and Develop High-Quality Writing Proficiency Courses
A letter grade of C- in the designated writing proficiency course in each major is the sole measure of writing proficiency for graduation from California State University, Chico. WP courses in the major are therefore the backbone of the graduation writing assessment requirement at CSU, Chico. They are required upper-division courses in the content of the discipline that include the course elements listed above.

2. Maintain and Uphold Policies and Procedures for Writing Courses
It is the responsibility of each academic department to

  • Certify, by a grade of C- or better in the WP course, those students who satisfy the graduation writing standards of the major.  NOTE: Students who earn below a C- are required to repeat the course until they earn a C- or better.
  • Create a procedure for identifying, as early as possible, students in the major who are not likely to meet the writing requirements and standards in the WP courses.  Departments are also responsible for advising students of recommended and required writing development resources available to them and to assist them as needed to develop their ability to communicate in written English.
  • Develop means of certifying the writing of students who have transferred WP course content only from another institution. Any proposed alternative to the approved WP course must be based on major-related writing in the English language produced at CSU, Chico by a junior or senior who has already earned a letter grade meeting the minimum requirement or better in a GE course in Written Communication or its equivalent.
  • Offer WP courses every semester to facilitate students' timely progression to graduation.  In case additional time is needed to meet the department's writing standards, departments should advise students to take the WP course no later than their first semester as a senior.
  • Contact the UWC for assistance in developing department policies and procedures. NOTE: The Provost shall approve each department's policies and procedures, taking into account the recommendation of the University Writing Committee.

3. Develop Student Learning Objectives for WP Courses and Carry Out Assessments

It is the responsibility of each academic department to develop its own SLOs for WP courses.  Assessment of WP courses will be driven by the course elements listed above in addition to the discipline-specific conventions and formats for written communication that are articulated by each department's writing standards.  The UWC will charge faculty in each department with regular assessment of SLOs as expressed in a given course and will support faculty as they develop SLOs to be assessed regularly.  Faculty will provide the UWC with an assessment plan that is effective and efficient in assessing these SLOs.

4. Provide WP Course Assessment Information to the Provost as Requested

It is the responsibility of each academic department to provide WP course assessment information to the Provost as requested. Requests may be for course syllabi, student writing samples, opinion surveys, or other documentation needed by the Chancellor's Office, the Provost's Office, the Student Learning Center, the University Writing Committee, the Testing Office, or the Office of Institutional Research.

Responsibilities of the University Writing Committee

The University Writing committee, functioning since 1978 as advisory to the Provost on matters pertaining to WP, will review WP courses to assist faculty with effective writing instruction, and advise the Provost on policies and procedures, quality and characteristics of WP courses, and assessment of student writing in the majors.

Issues related to General Education (GE) writing requirements are the domain of the relevant GE oversight committees, which have responsibility for formal reviews of the writing requirements in GE courses.  The University Writing Committee will be advisory to relevant GE oversight committees on Writing Intensive (WI) courses in GE.  The requirements for WI courses are laid out in EM 10-001.

1. Membership

The Provost and the Academic Senate Executive Committee, upon the recommendation of the academic deans, shall jointly appoint one representative from each college to three-year staggered terms. The Provost or a Provost designee, a representative from a GE oversight committee, a member of EPPC, and a representative from the Student Learning Center shall serve as ex-officio members.

2. Committee Chair

The Provost and the Academic Senate Executive Committee shall jointly appoint the Chair of the UWC to a three-year term. The Chair serves as the GWAR coordinator and shall work closely with the Provost or a Provost designee to establish the agenda for each academic year.  The Chair will have recognized expertise in writing instruction, literacy, or composition and rhetoric, and it is recommended that s/he serve on a GE oversight committee.

3. Reporting

The Chair of the UWC will annually report the results of ongoing assessments and other work to the Provost and the Educational Programs and Policies Committee.