Alternatives to Rhetoric

Arriving at a new university can be a daunting experience for anyone — students face the challenge of navigating the maze of Kalmanovitz Hall, finding the best spots to nap on campus and, of course, jumping through the bureaucratic hoops of the administration. However, transfer students coming in with credits from other institutions — or even first-year students with an abundance of community college, AP or IB credits — face additional frustrations with class registration.

Many transfer students have difficulty transferring credits, forcing them to spend more money on tuition and textbooks to retake classes they have already taken. The complications of transferring hard-earned credits unfairly impedes transfer student from reaching their intended graduation date. The source of this disadvantage is found in the core curriculum courses. According to a core curriculum course breakdown published by the USF Admissions, a student is required to fulfill a range of introductory courses in order to graduate. The document states that, “Rhetoric and Composition (A2)… MUST be completed at USF.” This particular core requirement is distinct to the transfer population, as those who attended a university before have already completed their first-year composition course.


Even for a student in their last semester at USF, the countless trips to CASA and their department chair’s office are an overwhelming experience. For the transfer student who arrives in this unfamiliar environment, registration and credit evaluations can feel like a nightmare. One of the editors of the Foghorn staff found himself in this dilemma. In this case, credits earned for introductory classes were not registered and did not fulfill the prerequisites that allowed him to take more advanced courses for his major. These kind of issues occur on an individual basis. Yet, many transfer students at USF are obliged to take classes they have already completed. The Foghorn questions the purpose of USF requiring students to take a year-long rhetoric course if the student already meets this requirement.


Professor Ronald Key, a professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Language, was able to offer some insight. He said, “USF requires transfer students to take rhetoric classes because they come in from all over the country (and world); they therefore bring a wide variety of training and educational experiences.” Professor Key further noted, “USF recognizes that there’s a recognized uniform format that formal writing follows…and [USF] wants all its students to conform their writing to that model.”


The administration justifies this requirement due to the diverse range of settings USF transfer students come from. Furthermore, USF must guarantee that all of its incoming students demonstrate a certain level of academic writing. However, to the staff of the Foghorn, this rigid policy may prevent some transfer students from completing their degree on time.


Other universities allow students to use credits from other institutions to fulfill similar writing requirements. At San Francisco State University, which requires 12 units across the areas of oral communication, written English communication and critical thinking, students may fulfill their requirement with equivalent credits from other institutions. USF should adopt a similar policy and allow students to apply their equivalent credits to the rhetoric requirements. Alternatively, the school could offer a “test out” option for the rhetoric requirement, similar to that of the foreign language requirement. This could be open to all students who feel qualified, or just to students with relevant previous coursework — such as from community college, or AP or IB courses from high school. Students would respond to a short prompt or upload a paper to prove their skills and understanding of the subject. If the University wants to make college accessible to everyone, these changes to the mandatory rhetoric requirement will allow students to complete their degree on-time.


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