The Mississippi College Writing Center has reopened for in-person tutoring sessions this semester, taking a number of precautions to ensure a safe environment for both tutors and writers amid COVID-19 concerns.
After operating fully online for the second half of the spring semester and the summer, the Writing Center’s physical location reopened on Aug. 27, with thoughtfully planned safety measures. These new precautions include 50% room capacity, plexiglass shields between tutors and writers, hand sanitizers, and regularly disinfecting each tutoring station.
“With the safety measures taken, we are confident we are providing a safe environment for writers,” said Lingshan Song, the assistant director of the Writing Center. She explained that she and Dr. Steve Price, the center’s director, met regularly over the summer to plan for reopening in the fall. They discussed safety measures with the campus’s medical crisis response team headed by Dr. Steve Martin and Dr. Kimberly Sharp. Using campus-wide protocols as a guide, they decided on appropriate measures to protect students while still allowing the Writing Center to operate effectively.
The Writing Center’s location on the first floor of the Leland Speed Library affords extra security, as students are required to show their Campus Clear app in order to enter the building. Wearing masks is also strictly enforced within the library. With masks and the plexiglass barriers in the Writing Center, both tutors and writers have two layers of protection, as advised by the medical crisis response team.
The Writing Center’s hours have also been adjusted, with in-person appointments available Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Online appointments are still available Monday through Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The new practices are not necessarily set in stone yet, however. After the Writing Center had been open for a few weeks, administrators began collecting feedback from tutors about how the new safety measures have been working. While feedback so far has been highly positive, the directors are already working to accommodate tutors’ suggestions for improvement. Casey Kellogg, an MC senior and the Writing Center’s new assistant student director, has been working closely with the directors all summer to figure out the most effective measures to preserve students’ safety and comfort. “All of this is very new, and so we want to figure out what will work best and how to make it work best,” Kellogg said.
Even with all the new protocols, however, Kellogg emphasized that the most important parts of the Writing Center, including its supportive community, have not changed. “We’re still offering the same services,” Kellogg added, “really offering more services now than ever.” Since going fully online last spring, the Writing Center has refined and expanded their online tutoring options, including the addition of asynchronous correspondence sessions, in which a writer submits a draft online and the tutor reads it and returns feedback.
Song clarified that the purpose of adding the correspondence option was to “accommodate students’ different needs, because we are aware not everybody has the access to technology or stable Wi-Fi for online chat sessions.” Students are still encouraged to come in person or use online chat if they can. With three different tutoring options available, however, students can choose the type of appointment that fits their learning style or writing assignment. And as the semester progresses, the Writing Center is prepared to continue to adapt to promote the safety and comfort of both tutors and writers in these unprecedented times.