Medwin's Final Midterm Revision

Original Midterm Draft

Abstract
This research looks at how the faculty at the City College of New York fits into the model of a discourse community as presented by various linguists such as John Swales and Elizabeth Wardle. Its initial goal is to prove that the faculty at City College is indeed a discourse community but goes on to extend the already existing study of discourse communities. The research uses written documents used by the faculty as well as direct observations and study of faculty members. After that, the research goes on to compare the findings to the findings of Swales, Wardle, and Sean Branick.

Introduction

Throughout the last few decades, there has been an extensive study by various individuals on the idea of discourse communities, or groups that share a common goal. By using examples throughout society, these individuals have been able to give a definitive definition to this once vague and abstract idea. One of the major contributors to the literature of discourse community is John Swales. In his writing, he creates a definitive model of a discourse community; it must follow six criteria in order to qualify as one. Over time, other writers have built upon Swales ideas; Elizabeth Wardle writes about how one’s identity effect the niche one fills in a discourse community. Sean Branick writes about how football coaches fit under the definition of discourse communities. The combined contributions of these authors have created a wide array of literature on the subject. By understanding discourse communities better, people are able to cater their writing and interactions to that specific group.
The purpose of this research is to prove that the faculty at the City College of New York qualifies as a discourse community. From a student or outsider’s perspective, it can be difficult to see how the faculty as a whole operates together. However, this research hopes to prove that the faculty as whole, not just individual portions of it can be seen as a discourse community. Another question this research hopes to tackle is whether getting employed as a faculty member automatically makes one a part of the discourse community of the faculty.

Methodology

To research the faculty at CCNY, my original plan was to divide my research into the various academic departments in an attempt to connect how each department operated. My hope was that I would be able to interview various teachers from the few departments I chose in order to get data that would provide evidence on how the faculty operated as a discourse community. My other plan was to search for documentation that related to each department or the faculty as a whole. As looking for documentation was more accessible immediately, I decided to proceed with that first. In this manner, I planned for my research to emulate that of Sean Branick’s, who interviewed and observed football coaches and looked at their written documents in his paper “Coaches Can Read Too: An Ethnographic Study of a Football Coaching Discourse Community.”

The first piece of written evidence, the CCNY faculty handbook, changed the way I approached my research. After going through it, I decided that instead of looking at and connecting how each individual department operated, I decided to look at how the government of the faculty (the Faculty Senate) facilitated the inner workings of the faculty itself and brought the faculty together as a whole. To put it into perspective, I decided to study a tree not by the individual branches, but by its trunk and its roots. I changed the target and questions of my interviews; instead of targeting and asking about how individual departments functioned, I decided to ask about how departments and the entire faculty itself interacted together to work towards a common goal.

Results

The first piece of data I looked at was the CCNY faculty handbook. The Faculty handbook the faculty at CCNY uses to “provide new members of the faculty with a general introduction to the College and to serve as a permanent reference containing information of importance regarding organizations, rules, procedures, and services to all members of the faculty, who are urged to familiarize themselves with the material collected here.” Although the handbook is targeted at the entire staff that works at CCNY, it seems that the main audience is for those who have just begun a position of teaching at CCNY. The handbook is a means for which to integrate these new members. The existence of such a handbook proves that there is an intention for the faculty to be united as a whole.

One interesting section is the one detailing the faculty senate. The document states that “The Faculty Senate maintains standing committees on: Administration, Financial planning, Educational Policy, Extension and urban services.” One interesting note is that the Senate consists of members of various departments, and is “the collective voice of CCNY faculty.” This makes it clear that at some level, there is interaction between the departments at CCNY.
Another interesting note is that the faculty handbook is actually outdated. Many of the links are outdated or broken and do not work. Some links are duplicates of others and others provide an undetailed summary of information that can be found in another link. For example, the link leading to the Faculty Senate provides only a general overview. To see a detailed description of the Senate, one must go to the link labeled Governance Plan. Therefore, it can be assumed that although informative, many of the sections have fallen into disuse. The most recent posts date back to 2008 and data is only given in a certain, limited range (Ironically, a note at the bottom says otherwise. “This handbook is continually updated.”) From this, it can be concluded that although there are attempts to maintain a tight-knit group amongst the faculty, these attempts are falling short.

The 2nd source of data comes from observing and speaking to actual faculty members. By observing and talking to faculty members, I was able to get a general idea of how they interacted with one another. I saw that faculty members may or may not have offices together with other members within their specific department. Within this shared office space, faculty members can interact with one another. Faculty members can develop a level of friendship and trust with one another. However, I realized that this is solely based upon the individual. If an individual does not wish to interact with his/her peers, they do not need to. Some faculty members limit their interaction with one another on a daily basis, coming and going simply to teach classes and then going home. As schedules for different members vary semester to semester, they may or may not see the same members of the department as often. One other thing I have noticed is that faculty members try not to interact with one another in the presence of other students in an effort to give their full attention to the students themselves. From my observations, I saw that the ideal situation described in the handbook is not exactly reality. Although certain individuals within the faculty will interact outside their department, such as those on the Senate or those running extracurricular activities, the general faculty member limits his/her interaction with those within their given department.

Analysis & Discussion

When comparing Swales model to the faculty of CCNY, the faculty is almost a perfect fit. The faculty has a defined goal which is stated in the first paragraph of its handbook: “to create a positive environment where research and scholarship thrive.’ The faculty communicates with one another on an individual basis via conversation and talking. On a larger basis, such as the departments or school wide, the faculty communicates via emails or memorandums. The faculty has a means of providing feedback and improving on itself. Faculty meetings and the committees within the faculty senate are created so that improvements can be made. Furthermore, there are terms and ideas that only members of the faculty would understand. Finally, one must be hired to become a member of the faculty at CCNY. Even then, they must work there to actually begin to understand the inner workings.

Having established that the faculty at CCNY is a discourse community, one large question remains: what makes an individual an insider in this discourse community? Yes, obviously these individuals are connected through the institution of the school, but what exactly makes them part of the discourse community of teachers? To answer this question, one can look at Elizabeth Wardle’s model of how one enters a discourse community. Wardle talks about how a new member of a community must engage imagine and align themselves with the already existing faculty. For an individual who has just become a faculty member at CCNY, they must effectively do this within their department or risk not fully becoming part of the community. All members of the faculty must attend “professional meetings” and members are encouraged to cover for their colleagues. If one does not participate in these activities, not only are they violating the code of conduct set forth by the school, they are also isolating themselves and preventing themselves from becoming a part of the community. Similar to Alan’s Story in Wardle’s piece, if one does not eventually become fully part of the community or feel welcome, they will probably eventually leave.

Conclusion

To conclude, the faculty at CCNY is definitely a more complex community then meets the eye. Despite its complexity however, it is definitely a discourse community. Many members may only interact with a small number of individuals within the entire discourse but nonetheless work together to improve upon the overall final goal like cogs in a machine.
For further research, it would be interesting to see how other schools function as discourse communities. It has come to my knowledge that many other universities break themselves apart into distinctive schools such as a School of Arts and Science or a School of Engineering. It would definitely be worth it to research a university with such distinctive divisions as opposed to CCNY, where the only heavy divisions are in majors and subjects.

Work Cited

Branick, Sean. (2007). Coaches can read, too: An ethnographic study of a football coaching discourse community. (pp. 556-573).Print

Swales, John. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Boston: Cambridge UP.
The City College of New York (). The City College of New York Faculty Handbook. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/facultystaff/provost/CCNY-Faculty- Handbook.cfm. [Last Accessed 11 April 2013].

Wardle, Elizabeth. (2004). Identity, Authority, and Learning to Write in New Workplaces. [ONLINE] Available at: http://enculturation.gmu.edu/5_2/wardle.html. [Last Accessed 11 April 2013].

Revision Proposal

Audience

Since I am planning to revise my midterm into a newspaper article, the audience of my revised midterm project would be the people who are reading the newspaper, which would be the campus body of CCNY. Students would be interested in this piece because it would show how the faculty senate affects the quality of education they receive. The faculty members who read it may be interested because they may wish to learn more about the government system that they is in charge over them.

Key Questions

The three major questions my piece will attempt to address are as follows:
1) What is the faculty senate?
2) How does it affect the student and faculty body at CCNY?
3) Why should the audience care about the faculty senate?

Goals

Present the facts as they are before giving an opinion.
One aspect of the campus newspaper genre is how it must first present the facts as they are. This means that the piece must initially be unbiased. Only once the facts are laid down can the writer then proceed to present their own opinion. Many times, to appeal to the audience, the bias is in favor of the students. If my final product were to do this, then it must first present all my findings. Only then can I write on the speculation and conclusions that are drawn from these facts. If my piece does not have it, it would resemble more of an editorial piece then an actual newspaper article.

Writing concisely.
In any newspaper article, the writer must be concise and to the point. Otherwise, the readers will likely be unwilling to read the article and simply take a glance at it before moving on to the next article to glance over. Therefore, the first few sentences of my piece must be especially engaging. If this goal is achieved, then my finished product will be brief, concise, and interesting. The length of my project should not exceed 1000 words. Otherwise, it would be long-winded and a reader would find it uninteresting. In fact, many pieces in this genre are between 200 and 700 words.

Minimal Mechanical Errors
As silly as it is, many highly interesting newspaper articles are discredited because of poor grammar and punctuation errors. My final product should be free of almost any mechanical errors. If done correctly, it will be just that, and the piece will have credibility should I choose to submit it. Otherwise, it may turn away readers and distract readers from the goal of the piece: presenting the information.

Genre Models

The primary genre that I wish to produce would be an article in a university newspaper. A good example would be from the Harvard Crimson:
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/4/29/class-day-student-speakers/

This piece is brief, concise and shares a singular topic to the targeted audience: the students of the university. Obviously, the topic is extremely relevant to them and so the title already draws in readers. One interesting thing to note is that the grammatical errors are pointed out in the comments section at the bottom. This is something my piece hopes to avoid. However, overall, it is a very good model to follow; it intertwines data taken from the field while creating an interesting story.
Ultimately, the genre of my final product will resemble this piece. It will be an article that can be submitted in the upcoming edition of the CCNY newspaper. The piece itself will present the data that I have gathered and compile it in a way that is conscientious to the genre: brief, concise, free of grammatical mistakes, and catered to the students and faculty of CCNY.

Midterm Revision

Faculty Senate To Meet to Discuss School Affairs

As many of us are preparing and finishing our finals for the semester, some of our teachers are also preparing for something important as well. On May 16th, the CCNY Faculty senate will meet to discuss major matters regarding the upcoming school year within the university.

The Senate, a relatively unknown entity to the general population of the university, is actually the brain behind the faculty here at CCNY. The Senate is comprised of 56 “senators” from within the various disciplines and schools at CCNY. These senators are ordinary professors that work at the college. They are each a part of the Senate’s eleven committees, which focus on specific issues. Elected senators also elect an executive committee to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the university government.

So how does the CCNY Senate affect ordinary students like you or me and why should you care?

The decisions of the Senate affect literally every individual who works at or attends CCNY. Those number general education requirements you need? How much tuition you pay? Among other things, these are all decisions made by the faculty senate. Although many students see CCNY as a school that could use some major improvement, the senate works tirelessly to maintain the balanced educational system we are used to. We do take their efforts for granted.

In the past, the Senate has gotten together to discuss the school’s budget, general education requirements and other business involving the overall management of the university. It is the faculty government here at CCNY.

Now that you know who controls your education and future, can you do anything about it? Actually, you can do a lot. The general meetings held by the Senate are open to any faculty member. Have a teacher who you think could positively impact the school? Why don’t you invite him or her to go the Senate meeting?

Although there is no set agenda for the upcoming meeting, it is expected that the Senate will discuss end-of-the-year matters and the budget and calendar for the upcoming school semester.

One of the most shocking things about the Senate is that most faculty members do not know about it at all and it therefore seen as a highly selective and closed group. This is actually not the case and Rishi Raj, the Senate Chair has actually extended an invitation to “each and every faculty member to actively participate in Senate proceedings.”

You never know, maybe you can influence a teacher in the school to make a change.

Midterm Revision Assessment

The Planning Process

To write a good article suitable for a university article, one must come prepared with plenty of information and charisma. Armed with the data from my midterm project and the online faculty handbook, I set out to write a convincing article on the importance of the CCNY faculty senate. The first thing I did was research examples of currently existing campus newspaper articles. In my search online, I combed through the CCNY newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, and the Daily Pennsylvanian (the campus newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania.) I noticed that many of the articles in these papers were extremely short and to the point. These pieces were catered to their audiences, the students of the school and usually involved the point of view of those on campus.

So what of my piece? I tried to emulate this model as closely as possible. I first gathered up all my data and took those relevant to my revision- the data concerning the faculty Senate. I realized that the amount of data I had concerning the Senate would not be enough for me to write a proper newspaper article (since the faculty Senate was just a portion of the data used in my midterm project) and therefore went back to the faculty handbook and the faculty senate page to do more research. I discovered the frequency of the meetings and got a more in-depth idea of what they actually discussed in these meetings.

Writing the Revision- The Positives

In terms of the actual piece, it would ideally represent a piece that I would find in the CCNY newspaper. The piece had to be entertaining as well as short. I couldn’t be as long winded as I was in the actual midterm draft so in essence, the piece simply had to contain a condensed version of one of my points in the midterm project. Therefore, for my piece to be “successful,” it simply had to meet the criteria presented in the revision proposal: the facts had to be presented clearly, the writing had to be concise and the entire piece had to be virtually free of mechanical errors.

When actually writing the piece, I made sure it emulated the structure of the articles I had reviewed in the actual newspapers- brief paragraphs with quick bits of information, language was easy to understand, and valid sources. This all worked fine in my final product; I feel that the overall presentation of the information in my revision is done extremely well. One of the aspects of the piece that I felt stood out really well was the question and answering period. I tried to ask questions that readers would ask as they read my article and answer them on the spot. This format made it easier for me to present my information. I delivered all the points I wanted to deliver and I believe that anybody reading it would receive a proper introduction to the Faculty Senate. In the end, I felt that this was probably some of my best information telling in the fact that I presented all of it neatly.

Writing the Revision-The Negatives

Despite the many successes of my piece, I felt that there were a few shortcomings to it. The biggest flaw I saw was how I could have used more data. The overall piece has a good amount of the research data that I gathered in my original midterm research and additional data that I gathered specifically for it. However, I simply focus on one point from that research (the information from the faculty senate) and I feel that other parts, specifically more information from the faculty handbook, could have been utilized more.

I feel that any newspaper article could use more data to get a more full picture of the story. Mine is no exception and I feel that if there was more time, I could definitely have researched the faculty in more depth. Perhaps I could have actually interviewed Mr. Raj or another senator on the faculty senate. Perhaps I could have gone to one of the meetings of the faculty senate. If I had done this, I feel that the overall quality of the piece would dramatically increase. Unfortunately, due to time constraints this was not possible. However, I feel that this would not be noticeable to the casual reader, as the information given is enough.

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