As the Rhetoric 101 and 102 Guidelines state, "The Writing Center, located in the basement of Morton Hall, offers tutorial assistance on individual writing assignments and self-paced materials in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style." Six Macintosh computers and three printers are also available for students' use in the Center. Any Hampden-Sydney student (not just those in rhetoric courses) may come to the Writing Center (free of charge, of course) for assistance with any aspect of any writing project, subject only to the limits on outside help set by various professors. Tutorial help from one of three rhetoric staff members (Deis, Frye, or Rand) is available Monday-Thursday afternoons, three hours each day, for a total of twelve hours per week. Student tutors are on duty an additional 42 hours per week (including evenings, Sunday through Thursday). Students seeking tutorial help from rhetoric staff members who work in the Center sign up for an appointment on the board located just outside the entrance. Appointments are limited to 15 minutes each, though students may sign up for two consecutive appointments. A student may also establish a regular weekly appointment by writing "Do not erase" beside his name on the board. Students need not sign up ahead of time for appointments with the student tutors.
Students may use the Writing Center on their own initiative, or their instructors may suggest--or require--that they seek help in the Center. In Writing Center tutorial sessions, neither staff members nor student tutors will do any part of a student's work for him: we do not give a student topics to work on, we do not structure the paper for him or give him materials to include in the paper, and we do not proofread the paper for him. The goals of all Writing Center staff members are to help the student clarify his own thoughts, to help him find the structure most appropriate to his ideas and supporting materials, and to help him see the flaws or weaknesses in his writing style that make his paper difficult to read and understand. Consequently, tutorial sessions operate by the Socratic method, with the student himself discussing his ideas and his problems in developing those ideas, and the staff member or student tutor serving primarily as a sensitive and responsive reader and listener. Of course, students who come to the Center (usually sent by instructors in rhetoric classes) for review for specific grammar questions receive more direct instruction than do students who bring essays in to the Center.
Students are advised that they may work with Writing Center staff members to prepare for the Rhetoric Proficiency Exam. We have sample essay topics on file on which students may base practice essays and then review those essays with Writing Center staff members. We recommend strongly that students who fail the Proficiency Exam come to the Center to review their exam and to work on their individual writing problems in preparation for the next testing.